1,000 Noir Films (S)

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Title / Director / Year / Country
The Salton Sea
The Salton Sea
2002, USA, 103m, Col, Crime-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Tony Gayton Producers Butch Robinson, Eriq La Salle, Frank Darabont, Ken Aguado Photography Amir Mokri Editor Jim Page Music Thomas Newman Cast Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Adam Goldberg, Luis Guzman, Doug Hutchison, Anthony LaPaglia, Glenn Plummer, Peter Sarsgaard, Deborah Unger, Chandra West.
"The Salton Sea is a crime thriller told in flashback, filled with unexpected revelations and odd reversals in which things and people are revealed to be not quite as they seem. Yet all the movie's narrative gymnastics can't disguise the fact that it's inauthentic at its core and that its story just isn't worth telling. Don't blame Val Kilmer -- he's just acting in it. Blame Tony Gayton's script, filled with eccentric characters derived more from other movies than real-life observation. And blame D.J. Caruso's direction, which mixes neo-noir grimness with quirky comic flourishes that come out of nowhere and make no aesthetic sense. Bad enough when a director imitates Quentin Tarantino. At times Caruso seems to be imitating Guy Ritchie (Snatch), and that's just desperate." - Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
Le Samouraï
Le Samouraï Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1967, France, 95m, Col, Thriller-Crime-Gangster Film
Screenplay Jean-Pierre Melville, Georges Pellegrin Producer Eugene Lepicier Photography Henri Decaë Editors Monique Bonnot, Yolande Maurette Music Francois de Roubaix Cast Alain Delon, Nathalie Delon, Francois Perier, Caty Rosier, Jacques Leroy, Jean-Pierre Posier, Catherine Jourdan, Michel Boisrond, Robert Favart, Roger Fradet.
"Le Samourai gave Alain Delon his best part. Filmed on the wide screen and in wonderfully muted colour to add atmosphere - the great Henri Decaë was Melville's cinematographer - it has Delon as a ruthless hired killer living alone in a dingy apartment with a bullfinch as his sole companion... It is difficult to see how this story could be better accomplished. It has all the best virtues of American film noir but with a European sensibility that could have seemed melodramatic or pretentious in a Hollywood film. Paris becomes a city of shadows... Le Samourai is as efficient a piece of cinema as it is darkly romantic. Melville shows us his lone killer's methodical precision with great flair, and the police manhunt through the Métro is as good an action sequence as any." - Derek Malcolm (The Guardian)
Scandal Sheet
Scandal Sheet Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1952, USA, 82m, BW, Drama-Crime
Screenplay Eugene Ling, James Poe, Ted Sherdeman (from the novel The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller) Producer Edward Small Photography Burnett Guffey Editor Jerome Thoms Music George Duning Cast Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed, John Derek, Rosemary DeCamp, Henry O'Neill, Harry Morgan, James Millican, Griff Barnett, Jonathan Hale, Jay Adler.
"A low-budget spin on The Big Clock based on the Samuel Fuller novel The Dark Page and directed by Phil Karlson with a suitably sleazy atmosphere of journalistic cynicism. John Derek is perfectly cast as a callow reporter who doesn’t blanch at anything to get a story and Broderick Crawford as his editor who kills an “old maid” and is torn between covering up a murder and encouraging his star reporter to play up the story of “the Lonelyhearts Murder” into a tabloid sensation: just the kind of contradiction that Fuller can embrace." - Sean Axmaker (seanax.com)
The Scarf
The Scarf Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1951, USA, 93m, BW, Thriller-Drama-Mystery
Screenplay E.A. Dupont (based on a story by Isadore Goldsmith and E.A. Rolfe) Producer Isadore Goldsmith Photography Franz Planer Editor Joseph Gluck Music Herschel Burke Gilbert Cast John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge, James Barton, Emlyn Williams, Lloyd Gough, Basil Ruysdael, David Wolfe, Harry Shannon, Celia Lovsky, David McMahon.
"A better-than-average semi-film noir, The Scarf overcomes a rather so-so script to emerge as a worth catching little pic. It's not a lost gem, but it passes the time agreeably, and noir fans especially should seek it out. The screenplay concerns itself with a noir staple, the man who may or may not have committed a crime and who doesn't know himself whether he is innocent or guilty…. There's also some professional and occasionally imaginative direction from helmer Ewald Andre Dupont and fine cinematography from Franz Planer. Not a classic, but a decent film overall." - Craig Butler (Allmovie)
Scarface Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Scarface, the Shame of the Nation (alternative title)
1932, USA, 90m, BW, Crime-Drama-Gangster Film
Screenplay Ben Hecht, John Lee Mahin, Seton I. Miller, W.R. Burnett (from the novel Scarface by Armitage Trail) Producer Howard Hawks Photography L. William O'Connell, Lee Garmes Editor Edward Curtiss Music Adolph Tandler, Gus Arnheim Cast Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins, Boris Karloff, C. Henry Gordon, George Raft, Vince Barnett, Inez Palange, Edwin Maxwell.
"The original Scarface, loosely but boldly based on the notorious life and legend of Al Capone, didn’t invent the modern American gangster film. It blew it up. It reinvigorated and redefined the nascent genre, thanks to the rat-a-tat direction of Howard Hawks and scrappy performance of Paul Muni, a pug of an actor who packs his firecracker frame with dynamite… Films like The Public Enemy and Little Caesar had whetted the American moviegoing appetite for crime movies that delivered a vicarious thrill before delivering a sentence of poetic justice. Scarface delivered something more dynamic and insidious… In these days of blood-soaked gangster operas, this incendiary masterpiece still packs firepower. - Sean Axmaker (seanax.com)
Scarlet Street
Scarlet Street 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1945, USA, 103m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Dudley Nichols (from the novel and play La Chienne by Georges de la Fouchardiere in collaboration with Mouezy-Eon) Producer Fritz Lang Photography Milton Krasner Editor Arthur Hilton Music Hans J. Salter Cast Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay, Rosalind Ivan, Jess Barker, Samuel S. Hinds, Vladimir Sokoloff, Arthur Loft, Charles Kemper.
"A remake of Renoir's La Chienne of 1931, and a key psychological film noir, one of Holly wood's most tortuous and bleak visions of the delusive power of the imagination. Edward G Robinson's meek, middle-aged, middle class cashier/Sunday painter suffers with 'problems with perspective' when driven into an obsessive infatuation with Joan Bennett's sensual, scheming prostitute/actress... Lang's claustrophobic visuals, and a haunting score are enough to shape him into the essential portrait of tragic vulnerability. The film, taking representation and perception as its dominant themes, practically begs for close textual analysis while rushing headlong towards its subversive climax - offering further proof that the tight framework of American narrative genres provided the ideal context for Lang to work in." - Paul Taylor (Time Out)
Scene of the Crime
Scene of the Crime
1949, USA, 94m, BW, Crime-Drama-Mystery
Screenplay Charles Schnee (from the short story Smashing the Bookie Gang Marauders by John Bartlow Martin) Producer Harry Rapf Photography Paul Vogel Editor Robert Kern Music André Previn Cast Van Johnson, Arlene Dahl, Gloria DeHaven, Tom Drake, Leon Ames, John McIntire, Donald Woods, Norman Lloyd, Jerome Cowan, Tom Powers.
"Scene of the Crime is an entertaining cop show that will appeal to fans of its stars, most of whom made their debuts a few years earlier during the war… MGM glamour and sentiment fill the vacuum left by Scene of the Crime's avoidance of a social context. Van Johnson's performance can't be faulted, yet his pretty-boy image works against a convincing hardboiled atmosphere… The script is packed with hardboiled tough talk and cop jargon that never sounds quite right; Charles Schnee wrote some classic pics (and a couple of superior noirs) but he hasn't an ear for Raymond Chandler-like patter. The only actor that gets away with it -- and steals the movie as well -- is the great Norman Lloyd. His slimy informer Sleeper is genuinely eccentric, and peppers his dialogue with nutso touches.” - Glenn Erickson (DVD Savant)
Screaming Mimi
Screaming Mimi
1958, USA, 79m, BW, Thriller-Mystery-Drama
Screenplay Robert Blees (from the novel by Fredric Brown) Producer Harry Joe Brown, Robert Fellows Photography Burnett Guffey Editor Gene Havlick, Jerome Thoms Music Mischa Bakaleinikoff Cast Anita Ekberg, Philip Carey, Harry Townes, Gypsy Rose Lee, Linda Cherney, Romney Brent, Red Norvo, Alan Gifford, Oliver McGowan, Stephen Ellsworth.
"Screaming Mimi is a real cult item in the film noir filmography, weird and lurid and kitschy, but fascinating all the same. Anita Ekberg stars as Yolanda, an exotic nightclub dancer who survives an attack from a serial killer and becomes much more than a story to “night beat” reporter Bill Sweeney (Philip Carey)… A hothouse atmosphere of sex and obsession pervades this picture, as much due to the low-rent environs of the low budget sets as to the nightlife culture itself… Oswald knows how to cue the details of this dime novel world behind the restrictions of the production code. Even the deficiencies of the performances, from Ekberg’s breathy vacancy to Carey’s smugness to Gypsy Rose Lee’s overworked folksiness and sass to Red Norvo’s smart-aleck jazzbo comments, add to the weirdly off-key tone." - Sean Axmaker (Parallax View)
Sea of Love
Sea of Love
1989, USA, 112m, Col, Thriller-Mystery-Detective Film
Screenplay Richard Price Producers Louis A. Stroller, Martin Bregman Photography Ronnie Taylor Editor David Bretherton Music Trevor Jones Cast Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, John Goodman, Michael Rooker, William Hickey, Richard Jenkins, Paul Calderon, Gene Canfield, Larry Joshua, John Spencer.
"Al Pacino plays a divorced New York cop who gets involved with a prime suspect (Ellen Barkin) in a serial murder case—the victims are men that she's met through personal ads. Harold Becker directed from a script by Richard Price (The Color of Money); with John Goodman. What sets this thriller apart from its fairly routine script and adequate direction are the wonderful performances of Pacino and Barkin: Pacino forsakes much of the bombast of previous roles for a portrait of a disheveled, awkward individual touchingly trying to hold himself together, while Barkin keeps us guessing with elegance, imagination, and grace." - Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
Second Breath
Second Breath Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Le Deuxième souffle (original title)
1966, France, 144m, BW, Drama-Crime-Thriller
Screenplay Jean-Pierre Melville (based on the novel by José Giovanni) Producer Andre Labay, Charles Lumbroso Photography Marcel Combes Editor Michel Boehm Music Bernard Gerard Cast Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Raymond Pellegrin, Christine Fabrega, Marcel Bozzuffi, Paul Frankeur, Denis Manuel, Jean Negroni, Michel Constantin, Pierre Zimmer.
"A 1966 film by Jean-Pierre Melville, one of the great eccentrics of the French cinema. Melville specialized in severely stylized versions of American gangster films, bringing out their unspoken existentialism through a camera style that sometimes evokes the minimalist purity of Bresson, sometimes the seamless studio realism of William Wyler. Second Breath, one of his few commercial successes, is a painstaking account of an aging gangster (Lino Ventura) who escapes from jail and plans an elaborate armored-car robbery to prove he's still in the game. It isn't an easy film to watch, perhaps because it moves so deliberately in comparison to its American models, but this somber, repressive, and perverse work displays a ferocious moral and formal integrity." - Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader)
Second Chance
Second Chance
1953, USA, 81m, Col, Thriller-Melodrama
Screenplay Oscar Millard, Sydney Boehm, Robert Presnell Sr. [uncredited] Producer Edmund Grainger Photography William Snyder Editor Robert Ford Music Roy Webb Cast Robert Mitchum, Linda Darnell, Jack Palance, Reginald Sheffield, Roy Roberts, Sandro Giglio, Rodolfo Hoyos, Margaret Brewster, Salvador Baguez, Maurice Jara.
"Originally made in 3-D, this unpretentious and very enjoyable RKO thriller has Robert Mitchum as a prizefighter helping out ex-gangster's moll Linda Darnell in Mexico, where she is being stalked by hired killer Jack Palance. Far from noir, given the simplicity of the plot and the lack of romantic pessimism, it nevertheless works very well thanks to the assured performances (the luscious Darnell makes a lovely companion for the similarly statuesque Mitchum), and to a genuinely exciting climax aboard a broken-down cable car." - Geoff Andrew (Time Out)
The Second Woman
The Second Woman
1951, USA, 91m, BW, Mystery-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Mort Briskin, Robert Smith Producer Robert Smith Photography Hal Mohr Editor Walter Thompson Music Joseph Nussbaum Cast Robert Young, Betsy Drake, John Sutton, Florence Bates, Morris Carnovsky, Henry O'Neill, Jean Rogers, Raymond Largay, Shirley Ballard, Vicki Raaf.
"The Second Woman is an intriguing if frustrating little thriller -- frustrating because it verges on being very good but settles for being merely OK. Part of the problem is that Woman combines elements of various styles -- film noir, psychological drama, mystery, thriller, romance -- but doesn't meld them into a satisfying whole... James Kern should be lauded for his attempts to create mood and atmosphere, and for his considerable success in this area, but he should also be criticized for letting the pace flag in spots and for not finding a consistent tone for the piece. The story is, fortunately, rather fascinating and keeps the audience quite involved, even when the dialogue is a bit simplistic. All in all, The Second Woman is a good attempt that is worth watching, even if it falls short of reaching its goals." - Craig Butler (Allmovie)
Secret Beyond the Door
Secret Beyond the Door Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1948, USA, 98m, BW, Thriller-Melodrama-Romantic Mystery
Screenplay Silvia Richards (from a story by Rufus King) Producer Fritz Lang Photography Stanley Cortez Editor Arthur Hilton Music Miklos Rozsa Cast Joan Bennett, Michael Redgrave, Anne Revere, Barbara O'Neil, Natalie Schafer, Paul Cavanagh, Virginia Brissac, Tom Chatterton, David Cota, Frank Dae.
"Fritz Lang, whose German expressionist movies helped create film noir, saw his disciple Alfred Hitchcock surge ahead of him in Hollywood. With this psychoanalytical thriller incorporating elements of Rebecca, Suspicion and Spellbound, he sought to establish he was Hitch's equal. It proved a critical and commercial disaster but is now widely seen as a key example of Lang's "fantastical realism". A sublime, delirious melodrama, it stars Joan Bennett as a sleepwalking heiress who meets a charming architect (Redgrave) in Mexico, and marries in haste. He turns out to have a bizarre family past and a weird present that includes re-creating in the basement of his New England mansion the rooms where famous murders occurred... The outstanding photography is by Stanley Cortez, who shot The Magnificent Ambersons and The Night of the Hunter." - Philip French (The Observer)
The Secret Fury
The Secret Fury
1950, USA, 85m, BW, Mystery-Crime-Drama
Screenplay Lionel Houser (from a story by Jack Leonard and James O'Hanlon) Producer Jack H. Skirball Photography Leo Tover Editor Harry Marker Music Roy Webb Cast Claudette Colbert, Robert Ryan, Jane Cowl, Paul Kelly, Philip Ober, Elisabeth Risdon, Doris Dudley, Dave Barbour, Vivian Vance, Edit Angold.
"There are certainly many movies from the studio era with implausible storylines, including some great and successful pictures. RKO hoped that the top-tier talent of Claudette Colbert and Robert Ryan, along with a good supporting cast of character actors, would elevate The Secret Fury into something special, but while the story is at least initially compelling, it doesn't really hold together quite well enough. The intriguing opening finds Colbert, a successful pianist, preparing to marry Robert Ryan, an architect. But during the ceremony, a man interrupts to announce that Colbert is already married… Colbert and Ryan proceed to track down the first 'husband,' but then there's a murder and Colbert is suspected, and she becomes increasingly unstable -- as does the believability of the plot." - Jeremy Arnold (Turner Classic Movies)
The Sellout
The Sellout
1952, USA, 83m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Charles Palmer (based on a story by Matthew Rapf) Producer Nicholas Nayfack Photography Paul Vogel Editor George White Music David Buttolph Cast Walter Pidgeon, John Hodiak, Audrey Totter, Paula Raymond, Thomas Gomez, Cameron Mitchell, Karl Malden, Everett Sloane, Jonathan Cott, Frank Cady.
"Gerald Mayer (Holiday For Sinners/Inside Straight/Bright Road), nephew of MGM-head Louis B. Mayer, directs this unpleasant routine expose crime drama without distinction. It's based on the story by Matthew Rapf and is written by Charles Palmer… It's watchable, but as a lesson in civics on why the law in a democracy works, it is not convincing nor that interesting. Its tale of corruption and intimidation by the law enforcers is old news, hardly anything to get excited about. Compared to the same themed The Phenix City Story (1955), this one lays an egg." - Dennis Schwartz (Movie Reviews)
Série noire
Série noire Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1979, France, 111m, Col, Drama-Crime
Screenplay Alain Corneau, Georges Perec (based on the novel A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson) Producer Maurice Bernart Photography Pierre-William Glenn Editor Thierry Derocles Cast Patrick Dewaere, Myriam Boyer, Marie Trintignant, Bernard Blier, Jeanne Herviale, Andreas Katsulas, Charlie Farnel, Samuel Mek, Jack Jourdan, Fernand Coquet.
"Although the setting is changed from Big City USA to the dismal, wintry Paris suburbs, this neo-noir retains the outline of Jim Thompson's source novel (A Hell of a Woman), following the trajectory of its door-to-door salesman until, with an almost audible 'Voilà!', he's deposited in an abyss of hopelessness - thief, triple murderer and not a sou to show for it. But the characterisations are turned on their heads. 'A hell of a woman' is here an engimatically passive 17-year-old (Trintignant), while the weary hero is rendered hyperactive in Dewaere's tornado-strength performance, hysterical rages, comical monologues and all." - Bob Baker (Time Out)
Serpico Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1973, USA, 129m, Col, Crime-Police Drama
Screenplay Norman Wexler, Waldo Salt (based on the biography Serpico: The Cop Who Defied the System by Peter Maas) Producer Martin Bregman Photography Arthur J. Ornitz Editors Dede Allen, Richard Marks Music Mikis Theodorakis Cast Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Tony Roberts, Biff McGuire, Barbara Eda-Young, Cornelia Sharpe, John Medici, Allan Rich, Norman Ornellas.
"In 1973,after the disenchanted, psychotic cops of The French Connection and Dirty Harry, Al Pacino's Frank Serpico came as a paradoxical change of pace. Despite his hairy hippie disguises and rebel attitudes, he was in fact a throwback to the Dixon Of Dock Green/Dragnet image of cop as paragon of personal integrity and social justice. Sidney Lumet's film, however, is the ultimate development of the all-cops-are-bent theme that understandably proliferated in the counterculture-dominated, post-Watergate 1970s… Lumet opens with an edgy suspense sequence that winds up with the hero gunned down in the line of duty, and the suggestion that his own department has colluded with the mob to have him shot. He then adopts a straggling, biopic approach, flashing back through Serpico's career." - Kim Newman (Empire)
The Set-Up
The Set-Up 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1949, USA, 72m, BW, Sports-Drama
Screenplay Art Cohn (from the poem by Joseph Moncure March) Producer Art Cohn Photography Milton Krasner Editor Roland Gross Music Constantin Bakaleinikoff Cast Robert Ryan, Audrey Totter, George Tobias, Alan Baxter, Wallace Ford, Percy Helton, Darryl Hickman, James Edwards, Hal Baylor, Kenny O'Morrison.
"One for the Ten Best lists. This is the boxing movie to lick all others, with Ryan impeccable as the ageing fighter gearing up for a bout he's expected to lose; Audrey Totter leaving him because she can't stand the mental and physical battering of the fight business, wandering the streets amid snatches of ringside radio commentary; and an invading sense of desolation the result. Great blue moments in black-and-white from a director whose early work is still outstanding: the film burns with the humanity that Raging Bull never quite achieves, an expression of masochism mixed with futile pride that is the essence of boxing as a movie myth." - Chris Auty (Time Out)
Se7en Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Seven (alternative spelling)
1995, USA, 127m, Col, Mystery-Police Detective Film-Crime Thriller
Screenplay Andrew Kevin Walker Producers Arnold Kopelson, Phillis Carlyle Photography Darius Khondji Editor Richard Francis-Bruce Music Howard Shore Cast Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Roundtree, R. Lee Ermey, Kevin Spacey, John C. McGinley, Julie Araskog, Mark Boone Jr., John Cassini.
"Who would have guessed that a grisly and upsetting serial-killer police procedural costarring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as detectives, written by a Tower Records cashier (Andrew Kevin Walker), and directed by David Fincher (Alien) would bear a startling resemblance to a serious work of art?… Admittedly, designer unpleasantness is a hallmark of our era, and this movie may be more concerned with wallowing in it than with illuminating what it means politically. Yet the filmmakers stick to their vision with such dedication and persistence that something indelible comes across—something ethically and artistically superior to The Silence of the Lambs that refuses to exploit suffering for fun or entertainment and leaves you wondering about the world we're living in." - Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
711 Ocean Drive
711 Ocean Drive
1950, USA, 102m, BW, Crime-Drama-Gangster Film
Screenplay Francis Swann, Richard English Producer Frank N. Seltzer Photography Franz Planer Editor Bert Jordan Music Sol Kaplan Cast Edmond O'Brien, Joanne Dru, Otto Kruger, Barry Kelley, Dorothy Patrick, Don Porter, Howard St. John, Robert Osterloh, Sammy White, Fred Aldrich.
"A real firecracker of a film noir, 711 Ocean Drive is a treat for fans of the genre. Combining noir with a semi-documentary approach, 711 is ostensibly an expose of gambling rackets, but at heart it's an exploration of an ambitious individual whose quick rise through the ranks of organized crime is followed by a precipitous fall... In other words, a classic noir set-up in which fatalism and nihilism are implicit, even as the protagonist struggles against it. But what makes 711 so much fun isn't this theme but the plot, the characters, the dialogue and the way all are handled by director Joseph Newman and his creative team... The director is aided by Edmond O'Brien's excellent portrayal of a brusque, frustrated working man who doesn't know when to stop once he takes things into his own hand, as well as by Otto Kruger's superb gangster." - Craig Butler (Allmovie)
The Seventh Victim
The Seventh Victim Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1943, USA, 71m, BW, Occult Horror-Mystery-Gothic Film
Screenplay Charles O'Neal, DeWitt Bodeen (based on a story by Charles O’Neal) Producer Val Lewton Photography Nicholas Musuraca Editor John Lockert Music Roy Webb Cast Tom Conway, Jean Brooks, Isabel Jewell, Kim Hunter, Hugh Beaumont, Erford Gage, Evelyn Brent, Elizabeth Russell, Ben Bard, Chef Milani.
"Though not directed by an auteurist-approved figure (Mark Robson has never attracted any cult to my knowledge), this is the greatest of producer Val Lewton's justly celebrated low-budget chillers—a beautifully wrought story about the discovery of devil worshippers in Greenwich Village that fully lives up to the morbid John Donne quote framing the action. Intricately plotted over its 71 minutes by screenwriters Charles O'Neal, De Witt Bodeen, and an uncredited Lewton so that what begins rationally winds up as something far weirder than a thriller plot, this 1943 tale of a young woman (Kim Hunter in her first screen role) searching for her troubled sister (Jean Brooks) exudes a distilled poetry of doom that extends to all the characters as well as to the noirish bohemian atmosphere." - Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
Sexy Beast
Sexy Beast Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
2000, UK-Spain-USA, 88m, Col, Crime-Comedy-Gangster Film
Screenplay David Scinto, Louis Mellis Producer Jeremy Thomas Photography Ivan Bird Editor Sam Sneade Music Roque Banos Cast Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, Cavan Kendall, Julianne White, Alvaro Monje, James Fox, Robert Atiko, Nieves del Amo Oruet.
"This is one of the most purely enjoyable films I have seen for a long time, a film which easily and cheerfully inhabits its chosen genre of old-fashioned caper comedy/thriller, generously delivering laughs and a pleasing sense of menace. It has something of Stephen Frears's 1984 movie The Hit, and a sliver of Get Carter in its hint of sexual envy and self-loathing. Its 'heist' sequence, moreover, far from looking dated and implausible, actually manages to seem pleasingly classical in form, and pretty exciting at that. All this is owed to entertaining performances from Ray Winstone as the former hardman Gary Dove, gone plump and soft and lobster-red in the Spanish sun, and Ben Kingsley, the psychopathic villain Don Logan." - Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
Shack Out on 101
Shack Out on 101
1955, USA, 80m, BW, Drama-Thriller-Action
Screenplay Edward Dein, Mildred Dein Producer Mort Millman Photography Floyd Crosby Editor George White Music Paul Dunlap Cast Terry Moore, Frank Lovejoy, Keenan Wynn, Lee Marvin, Whit Bissell, Jess Barker, Donald Murphy, Frank De Kova, Len Lesser, Fred Gabourie.
"The down-and-dirty, black-and-white 1955 B-movie Shack Out On 101 makes a virtue of economy. It’s an exercise in extreme minimalism centered on a single grubby but evocative setting: a seaside greasy spoon that becomes an unlikely hub of international espionage and intrigue… The film makes its way through an awful lot of narrative business, including a love triangle that threatens to turn into a quadrangle, a hunt for a mysterious sea creature, and nuclear intrigue—all in 80 minutes, without breaking a sweat or feeling too rushed… Though it’s no overlooked masterpiece, Shack Out On 101 does exactly what an overachieving B-movie should do. It tells a tight, lurid, and compelling story briskly and confidently, and gets out in time to make room for a second feature." - Nathan Rabin (The Dissolve)
Shadow of a Doubt
Shadow of a Doubt 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1943, USA, 108m, BW, Psychological Thriller
Screenplay Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, Alma Reville (from a story by Gordon McDonell) Producer Jack H. Skirball Photography Joseph Valentine Editor Milton Carruth Music Dimitri Tiomkin Cast Joseph Cotten, Teresa Wright, Macdonald Carey, Henry Travers, Patricia Collinge, Hume Cronyn, Wallace Ford, Edna May Wonacott, Irving Bacon, Charles Bates.
"One of Hitchcock's first American films, it was a rather personal project (several characters are named after Hitchcock's family members and various details, such as the book Ivanhoe and a childhood bicycle accident, are drawn from his own life) – however, it features many of the elements that would define his film-making style: his obligatory cameo, carefully deployed black humour (two crime-novel-obsessed characters plot various ways to kill each other, blissfully unaware a murderer may be living under their roof) and the way he would shoot and frame staircases to make them relevant story devices. Like the more famous Psycho, Shadow of a Doubt has a lasting ability to shatter the illusion of safety within our homes, with Uncle Charlie forever responsible for a sense of unease every time our own "fun uncle" comes to visit." - Dallas King (The Guardian)
Shadow of a Woman
Shadow of a Woman
1946, USA, 78m, BW, Thriller-Marriage Drama-Crime
Screenplay C. Graham Baker, Whitman Chambers (based on the novel He Fell Down Dead by Virginia Perdue) Producer William Jacobs Photography Bert Glennon Editor Christian Nyby Music Adolph Deutsch Cast Helmut Dantine, Andrea King, William Prince, John Alvin, Becky Brown, Richard Erdman, Peggy Knudsen, Don McGuire, Lisa Golm, Larry Geiger.
"This little-known Warner Bros. melodrama reteams Hotel Berlin co-stars Helmut Dantine and Andrea King. He is cast as Dr. Eric Ryder, a seemingly respectable medico, while she plays Ryder's impressionable young bride Brook. Despite significant evidence that Ryder isn't all that he seems to be, his wife continues to believe in and worship him. Only when it's nearly too late does she realize that Ryder is not only a phony, but a murderer to boot. The tension is heightened by the fact that Ryder's young son (Larry Geiger) from an earlier marriage is being methodically starved to death by his deranged father." - Hal Erickson (Allmovie)
Shadow on the Wall
Shadow on the Wall
1950, USA, 84m, BW, Mystery-Thriller
Screenplay William Ludwig Producer Robert Sisk Photography Ray June Editor Cotton Warburton Music André Previn Cast Ann Sothern, Zachary Scott, Nancy Davis, Gigi Perreau, Kristine Miller, John McIntire, Tom Helmore, Helen Brown, Barbara Billingsley, Marcia Van Dyke.
"A murder is witnessed by the victim's little daughter (Gigi Perreau), who immediately goes into a state of shock. All the girl has seen is the shadow of her mother's killer, but the audience knows that the murderer is Ann Sothern. At first Sothern is secure that the girl will never be able to identify her, but as the child shows signs of recovering, Sothern panics. Though the murder was unintentional and the killer is quite fond of the little girl, she nonetheless begins scheming to put the potential witness out of the way. Quite tense at times, especially in the last scene, Shadow on the Wall represents one of the few unsympathetic performances by the otherwise likable Ann Sothern." - Hal Erickson (Allmovie)
The Shadow on the Window
The Shadow on the Window
1957, USA, 76m, BW, Crime-Drama-Adventure
Screenplay David P. Harmon, Leo Townsend (from a story by John Hawkins and Ward Hawkins) Producer Jonie Taps Photography Frank G. Carson Editor William Lyon Music George Duning Cast Philip Carey, Betty Garrett, John Barrymore Jr., Corey Allen, Gerald Sarracini, Jerry Mathers, Sam Gilman, Rusty Lane, Ainslie Pryor, Paul Picerni.
"The Shadow on the Window plot may remind us of better thrillers, but there's no denying that its director, William Asher (Bewitched, all the Beach Party movies) puts over this familiar material with a clean, uncluttered hand… The killers are well drawn noir villains―Allen the outwardly reasonable, rational killer; Sarracini the slow-witted, kindly protector of Linda (Garrett) who can also be uncontrollably violent; and Barrymore the stone-cold psychotic―while Garrett and Carey underplay their roles admirably. Undemanding, perhaps, but a satisfying, entertaining noir." - Paul Mavis (DVD Talk)
1950, USA, 80m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Alfred Lewis Levitt, Martin Goldsmith (from a story by Nat Dallinger and Don Martin) Producer Ted Richmond Photography Irving Glassberg Editor Milton Carruth Music Joseph Gershenson Cast Howard Duff, Brian Donlevy, Peggy Dow, Lawrence Tierney, Bruce Bennett, Anne Vernon, Charles Sherlock, Rock Hudson, Peggie Castle, Joseph Pevney.
"Joseph Pevney adequately directs this minor film noir about a ruthless opportunistic shutterbug, Jack Early (Howard Duff), who will do anything to get his foot in the door of a San Francisco newspaper. It's adapted by writers Martin G. Goldsmith and Alfred Lewis Levitt from a story by Nat Dallinger & Don Martin… It was a routine story that is more about a depiction of the American drive for material success than an exposé newspaper story. Howard Duff does a credible job as the cad, while Lawrence Tierney is in his element as the menacing hood." - Dennis Schwartz (World Movie Reviews)
The Shanghai Gesture
The Shanghai Gesture Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1941, USA, 98m, BW, Crime--Melodrama
Screenplay Josef von Sternberg, Jules Furthman, Karl Vollmöller, Geza Herczeg (from the play by John Colton) Producer Arnold Pressburger Photography Paul Ivano Editor S.K. Winston Music Richard Hageman Cast Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, Victor Mature, Ona Munson, Phyllis Brooks, Albert Basserman, Maria Ouspenskaya, Eric Blore, Ivan Lebedeff, Mike Mazurki.
"Not exactly Josef von Sternberg in his heyday, but still choice goods—a perverse dream bubble adapted by Sternberg, Jules Furthman, and others from a creaky but serviceable John Colton play about the madam of a Shanghai brothel (Ona Munson) taking revenge on a British official and former lover (Walter Huston) by corrupting his daughter (Gene Tierney). Victor Mature is also around, and surprisingly effective, as a decadent bisexual... Given the censorship of the period, much of the decadence is implied rather than stated. But Sternberg's adept handling of claustrophobic space and sinister atmospherics made this melodrama an understandable favorite of the surrealists, and the icy tone cuts through the funk like a knife." - Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
Sharky's Machine
1981, USA, 122m, Col, Crime-Action-Police Detective Film
Screenplay Gerald Di Pego (based on the novel by William Diehl) Producer Hank Moonjean Photography William A. Fraker Editors Dennis Virkler, William D. Gordean Music Snuff Garrett, Al Capps Cast Burt Reynolds, Vittorio Gassman, Brian Keith, Charles Durning, Earl Holliman, Bernie Casey, Henry Silva, Richard Libertini, Darryl Hickman, Rachel Ward.
"Burt Reynolds showed signs of becoming a very personal filmmaker with this police thriller, his third outing as a director. It has the wistful faith in innocence and the extreme moral outrage of Gator coupled with the subversive infantilism of The End; what Reynolds lacks in technique (which is plenty) is nearly compensated for by the almost embarrassing intensity of his feelings. Here, he's a lonely vice cop who falls for the prostitute he's wiretapping. The context is extremely violent, which makes the intimate moments—between Reynolds and the girl and Reynolds and his buddies—stand out in agonizingly stark relief." - Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader)
1991, USA, 98m, Col, Thriller-Mystery
Screenplay Wolfgang Petersen (based on the novel The Plastic Nightmare by Richard Neely) Producers David Korda, John Davis, Wolfgang Petersen Photography Laszlo Kovacs Editors Glenn Farr, Hannes Nikel Music Angelo Badalamenti Cast Tom Berenger, Bob Hoskins, Greta Scacchi, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Corbin Bernsen, Scott Getlin, Theodore Bikel, Debi A. Monahan, Bert Rosario, Jedda Jones.
"Easy to watch, easier still to forget, Wolfgang Petersen's thriller, which he adapted from Richard Neely's novel The Plastic Nightmare, starts off with an elaborate car crash that renders the wealthy hero (Tom Berenger) amnesiac. Nursed back to health by his beautiful wife (Greta Scacchi), who survived the same accident unharmed, he begins to uncover disturbing facts about both her and himself. As usually happens with such exercises, this turns out to be very surprising and very implausible in about equal proportions; the settings are in and around San Francisco, but Vertigo this ain't. Bob Hoskins plays a likable detective and pet shop owner, and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Corbin Bernsen contribute a few smidgens of additional intrigue." - Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
Shed No Tears
Shed No Tears
1948, USA, 70m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Brown Holmes, Virginia M. Cooke (based on the novel by Don Martin) Producer Robert Frost Photography Frank Redman Editor Norman A. Cerf Music Raoul Kraushaar Cast Wallace Ford, June Vincent, Mark Roberts, Frank Albertson, Dick Hogan, Elena Verdugo, Johnstone White, Oliver Blake, Betty Blythe, Eddie Dunn.
"At just over an hour, Shed No Tears manages to cram in a lot of plot developments. Like the most successful B noirs, it trims the fat in favor of a lean, mean progression of plot points. The film is also aided by some excellent performances. Vincent gives it her all as the conniving, back-stabbing, two-timing femme fatale, and Johnstone White turns in a surprisingly solid performance as Huntington Stewart, the debonair but deceptive private detective who Sam’s son Tom (Dick Hogan) hires in an effort to find out the truth about his father’s death… Shed No Tears isn’t a classic, but it’s certainly not a failure, either. It has all the elements of a true film noir: dark subject matter, plenty of unexpected twists and turns, and convincingly nefarious performances." - Film Noir of the Week
Shield for Murder
Shield for Murder
1954, USA, 82m, BW, Crime-Drama-Detective Film
Screenplay John C. Higgins, Richard Alan Simmons (adapted by Richard Alan Simmons from the novel by William P. McGivern) Producer Aubrey Schenck Photography Gordon Avil Editor John F. Schreyer Music Paul Dunlap Cast Edmond O'Brien, Marla English, John Agar, Emile Meyer, Carolyn Jones, Claude Akins, Lawrence Ryle, Herbert Butterfield, Hugh Sanders, William Schallert.
"Shield for Murder [is] an underrated, seldom-discussed, but wholly time-worthy offering from the film noir era. Starring Edmond O’Brien, it also marked the actor’s debut as a film director… Shield for Murder was based on a book by William P. McGivern, who also wrote three other books later made into well-done films noirs: The Big Heat, Rogue Cop, and Odds Against Tomorrow. Like these three novels, Shield for Murder offers fascinating, well-rounded character studies set against a backdrop of seamy reality and an overarching sense of hopelessness. Although seldom included in lists of must-see films noirs, Shield for Murder is a first-rate example of the era." - Shadows and Satin
1946, USA, 70m, BW, Thriller
Screenplay Eugene Ling (from a story by Albert DeMond, with additional dialogue by Martin Berkeley) Producer Aubrey Schenck Photography Glen MacWilliams, Joseph MacDonald Editor Harmon Jones Music David Buttolph Cast Vincent Price, Lynn Bari, Frank Latimore, Anabel Shaw, Stephen Dunne, Reed Hadley, Renee Carson, Charles Trowbridge, John Davidson, Selmer Jackson.
"Shock is a mid-level thriller that, while never approaching greatness, is certainly entertaining enough. One part "suspenser," one part psychological thriller and one part film noir, Shock doesn't totally satisfy whatever genre it's put in, but it's hard not to get caught up in the very mechanical twists and turns of its plot. Hard, but not impossible -- those who demand logic and believability will throw their hands up at a number of the blatant manipulations that screenwriter Eugene Ling engages in. But director Alfred L. Werker seems to be having so much fun with this little cat-and-mouser that many viewers will overlook the deficiencies in the screenplay... All in all, Shock is an undemanding, lurid little flick that's more fun than it really should be." - Craig Butler (Allmovie)
Shock Corridor
Shock Corridor Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
LATE NOIR (1960s)
1963, USA, 101m, BW, Psychological Drama-Mystery
Screenplay Samuel Fuller Producer Samuel Fuller Photography Stanley Cortez Editor Jerome Thoms Music Paul Dunlap Cast Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best, Hari Rhodes, Larry Tucker, William Zuckert, Philip Ahn, Neyle Morrow, John Matthews.
"Sam Fuller's comic-strip Amerika, embodied in a lurid tale about a journalist who has himself committed to an insane asylum (this is no mere sanatorium) in order to investigate a murder committed there. Sanity slips from his tenuous grasp when he is confronted with a black man who believes he's the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, a nuclear physicist who has regressed to the mental age of six, and a number of other strange inmates, all of whom have been transformed into the people they hate the most. This 1963 film is harsh, grotesque, and violent—and, incidentally, brilliant in a very original way." - Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader)
Shockproof Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1949, USA, 79m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Samuel Fuller, Helen Deutsch Producer S. Sylvan Simon Photography Charles Lawton Jr. Editor Gene Havlick Music George Duning Cast Cornel Wilde, Patricia Knight, John Baragrey, Esther Minciotti, Howard St. John, Russell Collins, Charles Bates, Shirley Adams, Gilbert Barnett, Richard Benedict.
"Shockproof, director Douglas Sirk's 1949 masterpiece, originated in the typewriter of Samuel Fuller, and is the sole rung shared by two revered cinema originals on their otherwise unrelated climb up the a ladder to commercial success in the 1950s. Cornily, sincerely, and briskly zipping along for 80 minutes on the wings of Fuller's tabloid storytelling verve (unmistakably evident despite meddlesome studio interference) and kept buffed to showroom-quality smoothness by Sirk's elegant camera style and compositional genius, Shockproof is a minor film vehicle with major virtues." - Bruce Bennett (The New York Sun)
Shoot the Piano Player
Shoot the Piano Player Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Tirez sur le pianiste (original title); Shoot the Pianist (alternative title)
1960, France, 92m, BW, Drama-Crime-Thriller
Screenplay François Truffaut, Marcel Moussy (based on the novel Down There by David Goodis) Producer Pierre Braunberger Photography Raoul Coutard Editor Cécile Decugis Music Georges Delerue Cast Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michele Mercier, Albert Remy, Claude Mansard, Daniel Boulanger, Richard Kanayan, Jacques-Jean Aslanian, Serge Davri.
"Shoot the Piano Player is the most purely enjoyable movie Truffaut ever made. It's also the quintessential nouvelle vague film, a blatantly cinephilic combination of vivacious vogueing and soulful sentimentality… Shoot the Piano Player has a nominal, tragic gangster plot (adapted from David Goodis's 1956 pulp novel Down There) but, hardly a hardboiled noir, it's pure atmosphere. Powered by Georges Delerue's haunting score—mainly the sad, jaunty tune that the eponymous pianist Charlie (singer—but not here—Charles Aznavour) pounds out in a neighborhood saloon at the movie's beginning and end, Shoot the Piano Player is the essence of a drizzly autumn afternoon in some shabby arrondissement." - J. Hoberman (The Village Voice)
Shoot to Kill
Shoot to Kill
1947, USA, 64m, BW, Crime-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Edwin V. Westrate Producer William Berke Photography Benjamin Kline Editor Arthur A. Brooks Music Darrell Calker Cast Russell Wade, Edmund MacDonald, Vince Barnett, Luana Walters, Robert Kent, Nestor Paiva, Charles Trowbridge, Harry Brown, Ted Hecht, Harry Cheshire.
"A 64 min programmer made by independent producer Robert L. Lippert, who over 10 years from 1945 to 1955 produced a swathe of el cheapo westerns and thrillers, Shoot to Kill is a gem of a noir made by a bunch of stringers. Director William A. Berke made a stack of b’s from the early 30s through to the late 50s. DP Benjamin Kline also lensed Detour (1945) for Edgar G. Ulmer… Westrate’s story is convoluted with many twists and turns yet moves apace and is neatly resolved in just over an hour, with one final out-of-left-field twist. Double and triple-crosses abound, and the story largely told in flashback manages a flashback in a flashback. Great stuff." - Tony D’Ambra (FilmsNoir.net)
Short Cut to Hell
Short Cut to Hell
1957, USA, 89m, BW, Crime-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Raphael Blau, Ted Berkman (based on the 1942 screenplay for This Gun for Hire by Albert Matz and W.R. Burnett, from the novel A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene) Producer A.C. Lyles Photography Haskell Boggs Editor Tom McAdoo Music Irvin Talbot Cast William Bishop, Robert Ivers, Georgann Johnson, Yvette Vickers, Murvyn Vye, Jacques Aubuchon, Peter Baldwin, Richard Hale, Roscoe Ates, Joe Bassett.
"As a favor to an old friend, producer Alex Gordon, James Cagney turned director for the first and only time in his career with Short Cut to Hell. The film is a remake of the 1942 Veronica Lake-Alan Ladd starrer This Gun For Hire. Robert Ivers plays Kyle, a hired killer who is double-crossed by his employer Bahrwell (Jacques Aubuchon). Seeking revenge, Kyle is reluctantly teamed with Glory Hamilton (Georgann Johnson), who has been targeted for elimination by Bahrwell and his henchman Nichols (Murvyn Vye)… Though the film itself is nothing special, Cagney's direction is sharp and efficient; it's too bad that Short Cut to Hell was his only effort behind the cameras." - Hal Erickson (Allmovie)
Side Street
Side Street 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1950, USA, 83m, BW, Crime-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Sydney Boehm Producer Sam Zimbalist Photography Joseph Ruttenberg Editor Conrad A. Nervig Music Lennie Hayton Cast Farley Granger, Cathy O'Donnell, James Craig, Paul Kelly, Jean Hagen, Paul Harvey, Edmon Ryan, Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens, Harry Bellaver.
"Side Street combines typical Mann stylistics with the most complexly developed male/female relationship in any of his films up to this time. Something of a companion piece to Nicholas Ray's magnificent first film, They Live By Night, Side Street's milieu is the honestly felt concept of the urban nightmare. Weakness is the motivation for Farley Granger's thievery... For all its expected violence and the presence of Mann's psychopaths, Side Street has a gentler, more humane atmosphere than the director's previous work, no doubt due to the development of the Granger/O'Donnell relationship... Side Street is also notable for its beautifully written, well-motivated and acted characters. Mann lets them speak for themselves without the — in this case unnecessary — support of baroque stylistics." - Robert E. Smith (Bright Lights Film Journal)
The Sign of the Ram
The Sign of the Ram
1948, USA, 84m, BW, Thriller-Psychological Drama
Screenplay Charles Bennett (based on the novel by Margaret Ferguson) Producer Irving Cummings Jr. Photography Burnett Guffey Editor Aaron Stell Music Hans J. Salter Cast Susan Peters, Alexander Knox, Phyllis Thaxter, Peggy Ann Garner, Ron Randell, Dame May Whitty, Allene Roberts, Ross Ford, Diana Douglas, Gerald Hamer.
"Susan Peters, a fine actress of the 1940s whose career was curtailed by an accident which left her wheelchair-bound, utilizes her handicap to her advantage in Sign of the Ram. Peters plays an invalid wife and mother who exercises dictatorial control over all around her. Peters' loved ones are willing to forgive her nastiness due to her condition--a fact that she realizes fully and exploits to the utmost. Eventually her atrocious behavior leaves Peters alone and friendless, but even in her darkest moments she insists upon being a 'control freak' and engineers her own spectacular death. Far more tasteful than it sounds, Sign of the Ram was a worthwhile valedictory vehicle for Susan Peters, who died a few years after the film's release." - Hal Erickson (Allmovie)
The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1991, USA, 118m, Col, Thriller-Mystery-Police Detective Film
Screenplay Ted Tally (based on the novel by Thomas Harris) Producers Edward Saxon, Kenneth Utt, Ron Bozman Photography Tak Fujimoto Editor Craig McKay Music Howard Shore Cast Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald, Diane Baker, Brooke Smith, Kasi Lemmons, Tracey Walter, Roger Corman.
"Hiring Demme, surely among the warmest and most humane American directors, to handle such a violent story turned out to be a masterstroke of casting against type: He knew from his early years working for Roger Corman how to deliver the genre goods, but his empathy, particularly with regard to women, is what makes the film so enduring… Working with a first-rate crew—Tak Fujimoto's expressive lighting design and Howard Shore's muscular score are particularly effective—Demme draws the audience close enough to Foster's perspective to share her sense of loneliness and vulnerability… Foster's journey makes the film a terrifying fable, and far more than the sum of its overflowing case file." - Scott Tobias, A.V. Club
A Simple Plan
A Simple Plan Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1998, USA, 121m, Col, Thriller-Crime-Drama
Screenplay Scott B. Smith (based on his novel) Producers Adam Schroeder, James Jacks Photography Alar Kivilo Editors Arthur Coburn, Erik L. Beason Music Danny Elfman Cast Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda, Gary Cole, Brent Briscoe, Becky Ann Baker, Chelcie Ross, Jack Walsh, Bob Davis, Peter Syvertsen.
"Based on the best-selling novel by Scott Smith (who also wrote the screenplay), A Simple Plan both simplifies and brings into focus the already simple and effective thriller. Two farm-town brothers (Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) and their friend (Brent Briscoe) discover a bag stuffed with $4.4 million and decide to hold onto the contents until springtime, when the coast is clear. Almost immediately, greed and insecurities get to work, and the plan begins to unravel. The premise is older than The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, and A Simple Plan may remind some of the Coen Brothers' Fargo, particularly for the way both films set bloody, sudden violence against the snow-covered Midwest. But where the Coens' breakthrough film was often cold, and sometimes mean-spirited and cynical, Raimi's film beats with a human heart." - Joshua Klein (A.V. Club)
Sin City
Sin City
2005, USA, 124m, Col-BW, Action-Crime-Thriller
Screenplay Frank Miller (based on his graphic novels) Producer Elizabeth Avellan Photography Robert Rodriguez Editor Robert Rodriguez Music Graeme Revell, John Debney, Robert Rodriguez Cast Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Carla Gugino, Jaime King, Brittany Murphy, Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood.
"If film noir was not a genre, but a hard man on mean streets with a lost lovely in his heart and a gat in his gut, his nightmares would look like Sin City… A-list action stars rub shoulders with snaky villains and sexy wenches, in a city where the streets are always wet, the cars are ragtops and everybody smokes. It's a black-and-white world, except for blood, which is red, eyes which are green, hair which is blond, and the Yellow Bastard… The movie is not about narrative but about style. It internalizes the harsh world of the Frank Miller Sin City comic books and processes it through computer effects, grotesque makeup, lurid costumes and dialogue that chops at the language of noir… It's a visualization of the pulp noir imagination, uncompromising and extreme. Yes, and brilliant.”- Roger Ebert (Roger Ebert.com)
1947, USA, 79m, BW, Action-Adventure Drama-Crime
Screenplay Robert Thoeren, Seton I. Miller Producer Jerry Bresler Photography Maury Gertsman Editor William Hornbeck Music Daniele Amfitheatrof Cast Fred MacMurray, Ava Gardner, Roland Culver, Richard Haydn, Spring Byington, Thomas Gomez, Porter Hall, George Lloyd, Maylia, Holmes Herbert.
"John Brahm (The Lodger/Hangover Square/The Locket) directs with flair an exotic thriller inspired by Casablanca. It was remade in 1957 as Istanbul with Errol Flynn. It's based on the story by Seton I. Miller, who cowrote the screenplay with Robert Thoeren. Matt Gordon (Fred MacMurray) after serving with distinction in the American Navy during World War II returns to Singapore, a British colony, to rekindle romantic memories and recoup the valuable pearls he smuggled and left hidden in the fixtures of his hotel's ceiling fan… There's a Casablanca-like ending at the airport, with the chief inspector showing he has a heart and that true love between the adventurers can't be denied no matter what. The thriller had fine production values, terrific atmosphere and Ava and MacMurray were in great form.” - Dennis Schwartz (World Movie Reviews)
1951, USA, 98m, BW, Romantic Drama-Action
Screenplay A.I. Bezzerides, Hans Jacoby (based on the novel by Joseph Kessel) Producer Robert Lord Photography Burnett Guffey Editor Viola Lawrence Music George Antheil Cast Humphrey Bogart, Marta Toren, Lee J. Cobb, Everett Sloane, Gerald Mohr, Zero Mostel, Nick Dennis, Onslow Stevens, Ludwig Donath, David Bond.
"Sirocco was hardly Humphrey Bogart’s finest hour. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt, this espionage thriller features Bogie in a role eerily similar to that of Rick Blaine in Casablanca. But Casablanca this is not. Rather, Sirocco is a rather tepid, occasionally soporific affair, about Harry Smith (Bogart), a cynical high living arms dealer, based in Damascus in 1925 at a time when Syrian Arab nationalists were battling the French military stationed there. There is, of course, a girl and a romantic rivalry that has political overtones. In this case, the girl is Violette, a Frenchwoman portrayed by Swedish actress Märta Torén… Then again, Sirocco isn’t a total wash. The cinematography is occasionally quite stellar, and Zero Mostel’s scenery chewing performance as a local merchant is quite memorable and downright enjoyable to behold." - Jonathan Lewis (Mystery*File)
Slam Dance
Slam Dance
1987, USA-UK, 92m, Col, Thriller-Mystery-Crime Drama
Screenplay Don Keith Opper Producers Barry Opper, Rupert Harvey Photography Amir Mokri Editors Lee Percy, Sandy Nervig Music Mitchell Froom Cast Tom Hulce, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Virginia Madsen, Don Keith Opper, Adam Ant, Harry Dean Stanton, John Doe, Millie Perkins, Herta Ware, Judith Barsi.
"Call it new wave noir. Slam Dance, a chic exercise in merging the hyperactivity of '80s MTV culture with an old-fashioned whodunit, is performed with an admirable balance of flashy, disposable style and a narrative of some substance. It didn’t make heavy waves upon its 1987 release, but it epitomized what the Hollywood culture of the ‘80s was like. Tom Hulce plays C.C. Drood, a likable, frustrated goof-off who must suddenly contend with the death of his murdered mistress and then tirelessly work to solve the case… Slam Dance is indeed a trip down memory lane for new wave aficionados. It has all the requisite tropes of an ‘80s thriller: fast cars, flashy edits, loud music and down and out slummers in Tinseltown. It doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, but it has a hopeful one – the kind you’re used to seeing in your favourite rock video." - Imran Khan (PopMatters)
Sleep, My Love
Sleep, My Love Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1948, USA, 97m, BW, Mystery-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Leo Rosten, St. Clair McKelway, Cy Endfield [uncredited], Decla Dunning [uncredited] (from the novel by Leo Rosten) Producers Charles Rogers, Ralph Cohn Photography Joseph Valentine Editor Lynn Harrison Music Rudy Schrager Cast Claudette Colbert, Robert Cummings, Don Ameche, Rita Johnson, George Coulouris, Hazel Brooks, Queenie Smith, Keye Luke, Raymond Burr, Ralph Morgan.
"Though dismissed by Sirk himself, and far from equal to his superb work of the mid to late '50s, this is a fine thriller in the Gaslight mould, with Colbert's demise being planned by her apparently loving husband Ameche. From the opening moments aboard a train rushing through the night, the tension is kept up by taut pacing and Joseph Valentine's expressionist photography, giving rise to a suitably nightmarish evocation of insanity and shifting appearances; while the acting is strong throughout, nowhere more so than a sinister Coulouris as a bogus psychiatrist." - Geoff Andrew (Time Out)
The Sleeping City
The Sleeping City
1950, USA, 85m, BW, Mystery-Crime-Drama
Screenplay Joe Eisinger Producer Leonard Goldstein Photography William Miller Editor Frank Gross Music Frank Skinner Cast Richard Conte, Coleen Gray, Richard Taber, John Alexander, Peggy Dow, Alex Nicol, Carroll Ashburn, Frank Baxter, Dort Clark, Mickey Cochran.
"In 1947, producer Mark Hellinger and director Jules Dassin made The Naked City on the streets of New York... The movie was a huge hit, and led to a cycle of cinéma vérité-style crime thrillers... Universal made The Sleeping City as its own contribution to the cycle, directed by George Sherman. The results weren't as stylistically striking as The Naked City, but had an appeal all its own -- the location shots had a more polished and slightly more visually lyrical look than those of The Naked City, and if the music by Frank Skinner (who'd scored part of the Dassin movie) wasn't as ornate as that of Miklos Rozsa (who scored the Dassin movie's finale), it helped sustain the tension set up by the script... Sherman, whose main forte was comedy, showed himself quite capable of handling a sometimes violent and very atmospheric mystery-thriller." - Bruce Eder (Allmovie)
The Sleeping Tiger
The Sleeping Tiger Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1954, UK, 89m, BW, Psychological Drama-Crime
Screenplay Carl Foreman, Harold Buchman (based on the novel by Maurice Moiseiwitsch) Producer Joseph Losey Photography Harry Waxman Editor Reginald Mills Music Malcolm Arnold Cast Dirk Bogarde, Alexis Smith, Alexander Knox, Maxine Audley, Patricia McCarron, Hugh Griffith, Harry Towb, Glyn Houston, Billie Whitelaw, Russell Waters.
"Forget the plot, which errs on the wild side as a psychoanalyst (Knox) experimentally instals a handsome young gunman (Bogarde) in his home, only to discover - to no one's surprise but his own - that the sleeping tiger of his wife's id easily outbids his patient's. Enjoy the high-wire tension of Losey's direction, the lurking paranoia that charges his images with electricity. Losey's first British feature, made under a pseudonym in the shadow of the blacklist, it sheds the classic modulations of The Prowler. Instead, you see the birth pangs of what came to be known as Losey baroque." - Tom Milne (Time Out)
Slightly Scarlet
Slightly Scarlet Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1956, USA, 99m, Col, Drama-Crime-Mystery
Screenplay Robert Blees (from the novel Love's Lovely Counterfeit by James M. Cain) Producer Benedict Bogeaus Photography John Alton Editor James Leicester Music Louis Forbes Cast John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl, Kent Taylor, Ted De Corsia, Lance Fuller, Buddy Baer, Ellen Corby, Frank Gerstle, Roy Gordon.
"The story is based on a novel by James M. Cain, Love’s Lovely Counterfeit; it’s set in a political milieu, and Dwan invests it with a clever, nerve-jangling sense that the strings are being pulled from somewhere way off-screen—whether with the police, the governor, the gangland leader, or even, God help them, the voters. The inflamed manner is intensified by the lurid decor, by one of Dwan’s longtime collaborators, the art director Van Nest Polglase: Slightly Scarlet is as rich in color as the title suggests, and, where the cast is a little lacking in energy (John Payne, Arlene Dahl, and Rhonda Fleming aren’t Hollywood’s most charismatic performers), the sets more than make up for it." - Richard Brody (The New Yorker)
The Small Back Room
The Small Back Room Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Hour of Glory (USA title)
1949, UK, 106m, BW, Drama-Thriller-War
Screenplay Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell (based on the novel by Nigel Balchin) Producer Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell Photography Christopher Challis Editor Clifford Turner Music Brian Easdale Cast David Farrar, Kathleen Byron, Jack Hawkins, Milton Rosmer, Cyril Cusack, Leslie Banks, Michael Gough, Walter Fitzgerald, Renee Asherson, Robert Morley.
"The Small Back Room is a modest-scale psychological drama about an explosives expert with a 'tin leg' and a drink problem who harbors a great deal of bitterness… The Archers (as Powell and Pressburger called themselves) usually preferred a narrative tone of derring-do and wry amusement, from under which deeper emotions would swell to the surface. They rarely set out to generate the kind of gritty, downbeat poetics that make The Small Back Room such a darkly glittering triumph… If tonally The Small Back Room has more of Powell’s quirky romanticism than Pressburger’s adroit wit, the latter’s script displays a deftness with thematic transitions throughout." - Nick James (The Criterion Collection)
The Sniper
The Sniper Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1952, USA, 87m, BW, Crime-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Harry Brown (based on a story by Edward Anhalt and Edna Anhalt) Producers Edna Anhalt, Edward Anhalt Photography Burnett Guffey Editor Aaron Stell Music George Antheil Cast Adolphe Menjou, Arthur Franz, Gerald Mohr, Marie Windsor, Frank Faylen, Richard Kiley, Mabel Paige, Marlo Dwyer, Geraldine Carr, Fred Aldrich.
"Despite the film's focus on the psychological aspects of the story, The Sniper still has the no-nonsense approach and fast-paced style of a superior B-movie suspense thriller. Arthur Franz, an excellent character actor who rarely got the opportunity to prove himself in leading roles, is both creepy and sympathetic as the mentally disturbed Eddie... The Sniper performed poorly at the box office but its reputation is considerably better today where it is recognized as not just a tautly-directed film noir but a critique of contemporary society and urban alienation inviting comparisons to Martin Scorsese's later Taxi Driver (1976)." - Jeff Stafford (Turner Classic Movies)
So Dark the Night
So Dark the Night
1946, USA, 71m, BW, Crime-Drama-Mystery
Screenplay Dwight V. Babcock, Martin Berkeley (from an unpublished story by Aubrey Wisberg) Producer Ted Richmond Photography Burnett Guffey Editor Jerome Thoms Music Hugo Friedhofer Cast Steven Geray, Micheline Cheirel, Eugene Borden, Ann Codee, Egon Brecher, Helen Freeman, Frank Arnold, Nanette Bordeaux, Cynthia Caylor, Marcelle Corday.
"This is what Joseph H Lewis is all about. The script is a perfunctory and frequently silly murder mystery, with an ending that's equal parts cod-Freud and O Henry. Furthermore, it is set in a ludicrous evocation of France, most embarrassing in the opening scenes in Paris, but still irritating when the plot takes the police inspector hero (Geray) into the country to romance with an innkeeper's daughter (Cheirel) who yearns for the Big City. However, none of this matters. The film is directed like a million bucks. Visually, it compares with The Big Combo as one of Lewis' purest noir achievements; beyond that, it has more cinematic ideas and effects per square foot of screen than any number of contemporary A features. In other words, it's a 'typical' Lewis movie: low on thinks, but with enough style to send lovers of cinema reeling." - Tony Rayns (Time Out)
So Evil My Love
So Evil My Love
1948, USA-UK, 112m, BW, Crime-Drama-Mystery
Screenplay Leonard Spigelgass, Ronald Millar, Joseph Shearing [uncredited] (based on the novel by Joseph Shearing) Producer Hal B. Wallis Photography Max Greene Editor Vera Campbell Music Victor Young, William Alwyn Cast Ray Milland, Ann Todd, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Moira Lister, Raymond Lovell, Finlay Currie, Hugh Griffith, Raymond Huntley, Martita Hunt, Leo G. Carroll.
"A not uninteresting offshoot from the noir cycle, made by Paramount in Britain and derived from a factually-based novel by Joseph Shearing, who specialised in Victorian Gothic (Moss Rose, Blanche Fury). Lots of loving period frills as Milland, a caddish charmer taking over the femme fatale role, lures a missionary's staid widow into (literally) letting her hair down, then wantonly sets her on the path to blackmail and murder. Allen's bleakly measured direction (he made the wonderfully atmospheric The Uninvited) is unfortunately tipped towards dullness by somewhat bland characterisations from Todd and Milland." - Tom Milne (Time Out)
Someone to Watch Over Me
Someone to Watch Over Me
1987, USA, 106m, Col, Romance-Thriller-Crime
Screenplay Howard Franklin Producer Thierry de Ganay Photography Steven Poster Editor Claire Simpson Music Michael Kamen Cast Tom Berenger, Mimi Rogers, Lorraine Bracco, Jerry Orbach, John Rubinstein, Andreas Katsulas, Tony DiBenedetto, James Moriarty, Mark Moses, Daniel Hugh Kelly.
"Ridley Scott's 1987 feature takes a conventional romantic police thriller script, written by Howard Franklin, and dresses it up like a Christmas tree… While the actors show some sensitivity and Scott works up a modicum of suspense and involvement, the real interest of this picture is the radiance of the images—a mastery of lighting and decor second only to Scott's Blade Runner, with atmospheric textures so dense you can almost taste them. Unfortunately, this mastery bears only the most glancing relationship to the story at hand, and Scott becomes guilty of the sort of formalism that used to be charged (less justly) against Josef von Sternberg. But even though the movie doesn't leave much of a residue, it looks terrific while you're watching it: Manhattan has seldom appeared as glitzy or as glamorous." - Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
Somewhere in the Night
Somewhere in the Night Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1946, USA, 108m, BW, Crime-Mystery-Thriller
Screenplay Howard Dimsdale, Joseph L. Mankiewicz (adapted by Lee Strasberg from a story by Marvin Borowsky) Producer Anderson Lawler Photography Norbert Brodine Editor James B. Clark Music David Buttolph Cast John Hodiak, Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Josephine Hutchinson, Fritz Kortner, Margo Woode, Sheldon Leonard, John Russell, Houseley Stevenson.
"Hodiak as a marine blown up at Okinawa who returns to Los Angeles armed only with a name that means nothing to him and a letter from a girl, now dead, who hated him. Out of this familiar premise, Mankiewicz has fashioned a classic film noir account of the amnesiac who suspects he isn't going to like rediscovering the man he once was. His odyssey in quest of himself leads through a long dark night with murder and a missing $2 million dollars at the end of it, peopled along the way by the lost and the lonely, the suave and the sinister (wonderful supporting performances) and taking in a series of suitably clammy settings (waterfront fortune-telling parlour, mission hall, sanatorium for the insane)." - Tom Milne (Time Out)
Sorry, Wrong Number
Sorry, Wrong Number
100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1948, USA, 89m, BW, Thriller-Drama-Mystery
Screenplay Lucille Fletcher (from her radio play) Producers Anatole Litvak, Hal B. Wallis Photography Sol Polito Editor Warren Low Music Franz Waxman Cast Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Ed Begley, William Conrad, Leif Erickson, Harold Vermilyea, John Bromfield, Jimmy Hunt.
"In Sorry, Wrong Number, the world is made up of sounds, each elaborating the picture of menace. Barbara Stanwyck is a bed-ridden pharmaceuticals heiress who never leaves her swank Gotham boudoir. A screwy phone connection makes her earwitness to a murder plan, and she subsequently learns that her absent husband (Burt Lancaster) may have been stealing from her father's company—or worse. Told nearly in real time and almost entirely through telephone calls, the radio-play-based Number derives sleek hysteria from its audaciously constraining narrative strategy." - Ed Park (The Village Voice)
Southside 1-1000
Southside 1-1000
1950, USA, 73m, BW, Crime-Mystery-Prison
Screenplay Boris Ingster, Leo Townsend (from an unpublished story by Milton Raison and Bert Brown) Producers Frank King, Maurice King Photography Russell Harlan Editor Christian Nyby Music Paul Sawtell, Stuart Frye Cast Don DeFore, Andrea King, George Tobias, Barry Kelley, Morris Ankrum, Robert Osterloh, Charles Cane, Kippee Valez, Joseph Turkel, John Harmon.
"Sorely lacking in star appeal, Southside 1-1000 is a taut gangsters vs. T-Men tale framed by some intermittently awkward storytelling. The director is Boris Ingster, a talent known to fans as the maker of what is often considered the first film noir, Stranger on the Third Floor. The hyperbolic expressionism of that 1940 film has given way to a new style that mixes shadowy night cinematography with docu-flavored location work. Producers the King Brothers had been responsible for some interesting highlights of the noir period (When Strangers Marry, Dillinger, Suspense, The Gangster) and at least one classic (Gun Crazy). Southside 1-1000 has enough interesting elements to keep any noir fan thoroughly engaged." - Glenn Erickson (DVD Savant)
Specter of the Rose
Specter of the Rose Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1946, USA, 90m, BW, Thriller-Melodrama
Screenplay Ben Hecht Producer Ben Hecht Photography Lee Garmes Editor Harry Keller Music George Antheil Cast Judith Anderson, Michael Chekhov, Ivan Kirov, Viola Essen, Lionel Stander, Charles 'Red' Marshall, George Shdanoff, Billy Gray, Juan Panalle, Lew Hearn.
"A ballet melodrama with a score by George Antheil, this is one of eight pictures directed by the legendary screenwriter Ben Hecht, one of Hollywood's most grizzled cynics. The storyline centres on a schizophrenic male ballet star (an American with a 'continental' pseudonym) who starts murdering his partners during performances of the title ballet. Hecht's plotting fulfils every hope it may conjure up, but the real delight is his dialogue, which is among the most ineffably pretentious ever heard on screen. 'Press yourself against me so hard that you're tattooed on to me' whispers our hero (Kirov) as he chats up his ballerina wife-to-be (Essen) in a seedy hotel foyer. It has a curious and quite moving integrity at heart... but it's also the Beyond the Valley of the Dolls of its day." - Tony Rayns (Time Out)
Spellbound Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1945, USA, 111m, BW, Romantic Mystery-Psychological Thriller
Screenplay Ben Hecht, Angus MacPhail (based on the novel The House of Dr. Edwards by Francis Beeding) Producer David O. Selznick Photography George Barnes Editor Hal C. Kern Music Miklos Rozsa Cast Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Leo G. Carroll, Rhonda Fleming, John Emery, Michael Chekhov, Wallace Ford, Jean Acker, Donald Curtis, Norman Lloyd.
"In 1945, Freud & Co were beginning to have a profound influence on American thinking, so armed with a script by Ben Hecht and the services of a consultant, Hitchcock decided to 'turn out the first picture on psychoanalysis'. The story is simple enough: Bergman is a psychoanalyst who falls in love with her new boss Peck, and when it's discovered that he has a Problem (an amnesiac, he may also be a killer), goes to work on his memory. The characterisation is also straightforward, with a maternal Bergman fascinated by father figures (a delightful cameo from Michael Chekhov) and young boys (Peck, suitably artless). But Spellbound is also a tale of suspense, and Hitchcock embellishes it with characteristically brilliant twists, like the infinite variety of parallel lines which etch their way through Peck's mind." - Helen MacKintosh (Time Out)
The Spider
The Spider
1945, USA, 63m, BW, Mystery-Crime-Detective Film
Screenplay Jo Eisinger, W. Scott Darling Producer Ben Silvey Photography Glen MacWilliams Editor Norman Colbert Music David Buttolph Cast Richard Conte, Faye Marlowe, Mantan Moreland, Kurt Kreuger, John Harvey, Martin Kosleck, Walter Sande, Cara Williams, Charles Tannen, Ann Savage.
"The Spider isn’t all that memorable, but it does offer a fine bunch of thespians trouping cheerfully through the banality. Conte is a sharp, wise-cracking PI, Faye Marlowe the mysterious female client who (as usual) is not what she seems, Mantan Moreland (in a bigger-than-usual part at a major studio) plays the comic-relief assistant, as only he can, and Ann Savage, that bitch-queen of the B-movies, is ideally cast as a vicious and venal double-crosser. There’s also a bit of effective New Orleans atmosphere (everyone seems to be sweating) and a neat red-herring turn by Martin Kosleck, but I’m afraid that’s where the film runs out of redeeming qualities. Spider is strictly a noir-by-rote, with perfunctory shadows, routine femmes fatales, a suave obvious killer, standard-issue PI and the thick cops typical of B-movies." - Dan Stumpf (Mystery*File)
The Spiral Staircase
The Spiral Staircase Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1945, USA, 83m, BW, Mystery-Psychological Thriller
Screenplay Mel Dinelli, Ethel Lina White [uncredited] (based on the novel Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White) Producer Dore Schary Photography Nicholas Musuraca Editors Harry Gerstad, Harry Gerstad Music Roy Webb Cast Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Kent Smith, Rhonda Fleming, Elsa Lanchester, Gordon Oliver, Rhys Williams, James Bell, Charles Wagenheim.
"Superb thriller about a manic killer dedicating himself to beauty by ridding the world of maimed or disfigured women. Hitchcock couldn't have bettered the casual mastery with which the opening defines not just time and place (small town, turn of the century) but the themes of voyeurism and entrapment as a carriage draws up outside a hotel, the townsfolk assemble inside for a silent picture show, and the camera lifts to a room above where a crippled girl is being watched by a malevolently glaring hidden eye as she undresses... It's one of the undoubted masterpieces of the Gothic mode, even if the happy ending comes more than a shade too pat." - Tom Milne (Time Out)
Split Second
Split Second
1953, USA, 85m, BW, Thriller-Crime
Screenplay Irving Wallace, William Bowers (from a story by Chester Erskine and Irving Wallace) Producer Edmund Grainger Photography Nicholas Musuraca Editor Robert Ford Music Roy Webb Cast Stephen McNally, Alexis Smith, Jan Sterling, Keith Andes, Arthur Hunnicutt, Paul Kelly, Robert Paige, Richard Egan, Frank De Kova, Fred Aldrich.
"First time director Dick Powell delivers a powerful crime melodrama from RKO, ably assisted by veteran noir cameraman Nicholas Musuraca. A solid ensemble cast is led by Stephen McNally as Sam Hurley, a fugitive on the run. McNally dominates this movie as the brutal but complex killer: the noir motifs of the damaged war veteran and nuclear paranoia are deftly interwoven in an intelligent script from William Bowers and Irving Wallace from a story by Wallace and Chester Erskine. Not a cop is to be seen and cruel destiny deals with the protagonists in an explosive finale. In one scene, Hurley tells his hostages that he doesn’t like heroes, and this movie doesn’t have any. Retribution is in the hands of fate and the weather. A must see cult classic.” - Tony D’Ambra (FilmsNoir.net)
Stage Fright
Stage Fright
1950, UK, 110m, BW, Thriller-Mystery
Screenplay Whitfield Cook, Ranald MacDougall [uncredited], James Bridie [uncredited] (adapted by Alma Reville, from the novel Man Running by Selwyn Jepson) Producer Alfred Hitchcock Photography Wilkie Cooper Editor E.B. Jarvis Music Leighton Lucas Cast Marlene Dietrich, Jane Wyman, Michael Wilding, Richard Todd, Alastair Sim, Sybil Thorndike, Kay Walsh, Miles Malleson, Hector MacGregor, Joyce Grenfell.
"This 1950 Hitchcock film came between Under Capricorn and Strangers on a Train, and if it isn't the equal of those two sterling achievements, it's still an intriguing experiment. It's a murder mystery set in the stage world of London, and almost every scene features some sort of deception, from theatrical performance to bald-faced lying. Even the director, it turns out, isn't to be trusted. The issues aren't satisfactorily resolved, but Hitchcock seems to be exploring the ways in which various falsehoods—the falsehoods of acting, storytelling, and art in general—can lead to the truth, and the equally powerful ways in which they can betray it. There is also some very strange business involving a Cub Scout and a bloody doll, but that image, perhaps, is best left unexplored." - Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader)
State of Grace
State of Grace
1990, USA-UK, 134m, Col, Crime-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Dennis McIntyre Producers Ned Dowd, Randy Ostrow, Ron Rotholz Photography Jordan Cronenweth Editor Claire Simpson Music Ennio Morricone Cast Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, Robin Wright, John Turturro, John C. Reilly, R.D. Call, Joe Viterelli, Burgess Meredith, Deirdre O'Connell.
"While not in the same class as GoodFellas, this saga about Irish-American hoods in Hell's Kitchen during the 1970s is out of the same stable; and though sometimes monstrously violent, it's a hugely impressive piece of work for a young director… The plot is familiar: youthful loyalty compromised, betrayal, kinship, ethnic rivalry, protection of territory, return to roots, revenge. More important is the visual impact of the film, which begins in a blur of motion and ends with a bloody St Patrick's Day shoot-out. But most impactful are the performances: the much underrated Penn as a prodigal returnee, Wright as the ghetto woman who moved up and away, Harris as the bossman, and - most astonishingly - Oldman showing the ferocity of a Joe Pesci, the aimlessness of a Mean Streets De Niro, and the sex-appeal of a pre-fight Mickey Rourke." - Steve Grant (Time Out)
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The Steel Jungle
1956, USA, 86m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Walter Doniger Producer David Weisbart Photography Peverell Marley Editor Folmar Blangsted Music David Buttolph Cast Perry Lopez, Beverly Garland, Walter Abel, Ted De Corsia, Kenneth Tobey, Allison Hayes, Gregory Walcott, Leo Gordon, Kay E. Kuter, Bob Steele.
"Ed Novak (Lopez) is a cocky hothead and bookie who, after being arrested, is told if he tells all he knows about the operations of Steve Madden (De Corsia) he'll get a greatly reduced sentence. Loyal to the undeserving Madden, he refuses, much to the heartbreak of his wife, Frances (Garland)… Lopez gives a good lead performance in this, which also boasts fine work from Garland, Walter Abel as the no-nonsense warden, and Kenneth Tobey as a sympathetic if somewhat sappy prison shrink… The Steel Jungle is an acceptable prison melodrama with some effective performances." - William Schoell (Great Old Movies)
The Steel Trap
The Steel Trap
1952, USA, 85m, BW, Crime-Drama-Thriller
Screenplay Andrew L. Stone Producer Bert E. Friedlob Photography Ernest Laszlo Editor Otto Ludwig Music Dimitri Tiomkin Cast Joseph Cotten, Teresa Wright, Jonathan Hale, Walter Sande, Eddie Marr, Carleton Young, Katherine Warren, Tom Powers, Stephanie King, Aline Towne.
"It's taken bank employee Cotten eleven years to work his way up from teller to assistant manager. Next weekend, however, he could empty the safe and bolt for Brazil, without fear of extradition, visa and airline connections permitting. Thus is sprung a celluloid suspense mechanism of nail-chewing effectiveness and stripped-down simplicity, kept persuasive by writer/director Stone's penchant for shooting on authentic locations. Wright gets the short straw as the impossibly gullible spouse who slowly twigs this 'business trip' might not be above board, but her Shadow of a Doubt co-star Cotten contributes another spot-on study of illicit impulses simmering beneath the most conventional exterior." - Trevor Johnston (Time Out)
Step Down to Terror
Step Down to Terror
1958, USA, 76m, BW, Thriller-Crime-Drama
Screenplay Czenzi Ormonde, Mel Dinelli, Sy Gomberg Producer Joseph Gershenson Photography Russell Metty Editor Frank Gross Cast Colleen Miller, Charles Drake, Rod Taylor, Josephine Hutchinson, Jocelyn Brando, Alan Dexter, Ricky Kelman, Nelson Leigh, Eleanor Audley, Helen Bennett.
"Though the fact was played down by the Universal-International publicity department, Step Down to Terror (aka The Silent Stranger) is a remake of the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece Shadow of a Doubt. Charles Drake plays Johnny Williams, a psychotic serial killer who returns to his hometown to visit his mother (Josephine Hutchinson) and widowed sister-in-law Helen (Colleen Miller), both of whom are ignorant of his criminal past. Johnny hopes to settle down and start life anew, but Helen, her suspicions aroused by visiting detective Mike Randall (Rod Taylor), discovers the truth about her beloved brother-in-law." - Hal Erickson (Allmovie)
Still of the Night
Still of the Night
1982, USA, 93m, Col, Thriller-Crime-Mystery
Screenplay Robert Benton (based on a story by Robert Benton and David Newman) Producer Arlene Donovan Photography Nestor Almendros Editors Bill Pankow, Jerry Greenberg Music John Kander Cast Roy Scheider, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Joe Grifasi, Sara Botsford, Josef Sommer, Frederikke Borge, Irving Metzman, Larry Joshua, Tom Norton.
"A welcome attempt to redevelop the Hitchcock-style thriller form minus violence or supernatural bogeymen. Scheider plays a psychiatrist who falls in love with a woman (Streep) who may have brutally murdered one of his patients. The film is classy enough to be enjoyable, with a few set pieces deliberately resembling such classics as North by Northwest, Tourneur's Cat People, and others. But Benton's movie is eventually suffocated, perhaps by the gloss of the Manhattan auction world in which it is set. The plotting becomes rushed and implausible, while Streep falls into the breathless clichés of screen neuroses. Worst of all, a narrative which might have broken new ground by adding a feminine dimension, reverts to that most familiar of B feature formats: the psychological sleuth." - David Pirie (Time Out)
Stolen Face
Stolen Face
1952, UK, 72m, BW, Romance-Crime Thriller-Melodrama
Screenplay Martin Berkeley, Richard H. Landau (from a story by Alexander Paal and Steven Vas) Producer Anthony Hinds Photography Walter J. Harvey Editor Maurice Rootes Music Malcolm Arnold Cast Lizabeth Scott, Paul Henreid, Andre Morell, Mary Mackenzie, John Wood, Susan Stephen, Arnold Ridley, Everley Gregg, Cyril Smith, Grace Gavin.
"A pulp fiction Eyes Without a Face, Fisher's Stolen Face does stray into noirish territory with its themes of trying to escape a haunted past by recasting it in a different identity, a la Bogart's Dark Passage or another Paul Henreid vehicle, The Scar. The duo (trio?) of Henreid and Scott work exceptionally well together. Scott in particular does great in her double duty, not just putting on a heavier Cockney accent for Lily, but changing her physical gait, as well. Fisher builds to some real tension in the climax, though the humor and twists are more Hitchcockian than noir. Even so, a nicely done thriller." - Jamie S. Rich (DVD Talk)
Storm Fear
Storm Fear
1955, USA, 88m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Horton Foote (from the novel by Clinton Seeley) Producer Cornel Wilde Photography Joseph LaShelle Editors Herbert R. Hoffman, Otto Ludwig Music Elmer Bernstein Cast Cornel Wilde, Jean Wallace, Dan Duryea, Lee Grant, David Stollery, Dennis Weaver, Steven Hill.
"Storm Fear marked the filmmaking debut of Cornel Wilde, perhaps best known today for directing and starring in The Naked Prey (1965), another film that allowed him to put his physique on full display, as he does throughout much of Storm Fear… A hybrid noir, Storm Fear draws from the conventions of the film noir, gangster film, melodrama and Western. Such ambitions result in a lot of moving parts, not all of which come together without issue. Occasional moments of melodramatic outburst work against the film, so viewer expectations should be kept in check." - Eric Somer (Film Noir Board)
Storm Warning
Storm Warning Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1951, USA, 93m, BW, Drama-Social Problem Film
Screenplay Daniel Fuchs, Richard Brooks Producer Jerry Wald Photography Carl Guthrie Editor Clarence Kolster Music Daniele Amfitheatrof Cast Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, Steve Cochran, Hugh Sanders, Lloyd Gough, Raymond Greenleaf, Ned Glass, Walter Baldwin, Lynn Whitney.
"For a purported exposé of the Ku Klux Klan the film is as hard-hitting as 40 lashes with a wet noodle. To “take on” the Klan and then omit any mention of its racism or religious bigotry—presenting instead cracker Fascists as garden-variety goons keeping their town clean of “Northern” influence—smacks of cowardice… Not to suggest that Storm Warning is bad. The script may be spineless, but overall it is brilliantly made and utterly engrossing; it may be Stuart Heisler’s best work as a director. He and director of photography Carl Guthrie transform a rural Southern town (actually Corona, California) into a pestilent noir nightscape. Think Road House, only peopled with ignorant, armed peckerwoods. The visual punch is so strong that over the years Storm Warning has nudged its way onto numerous lists of vintage film noir." - Eddie Muller (Film Noir of the Week)
Stormy Monday
Stormy Monday
1988, UK, 93m, Col, Romance-Crime-Thriller
Screenplay Mike Figgis Producer Nigel Stafford-Clark Photography Roger Deakins Editor David Martin Music Mike Figgis Cast Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, Sting, Sean Bean, James Cosmo, Mark Long, Brian Lewis, Derek Hoxby, Heathcote Williams, Prunella Gee.
"Stormy Monday is a strongly noir-inflected thriller set entirely in Newcastle during 'American Week', a fictional festival designed to cement ties between the city and wealthy American investors… It wouldn't be film noir without a femme fatale, and Melanie Griffith is on hand to inject at least some sultry mystery into the role of waitress-cum-part time escort girl Kate… While the film is efficient enough as a thriller, it's perhaps most striking in retrospect as a mood piece that foreshadows Figgis' more experimental later work such as Liebestraum (US, 1991). Credited as writer/director/composer, Figgis is more expressive through his jazz-inflected score and fetishistic attention to visual detail (especially the effect of rain on glass, neon and concrete) than his characters are through their often overly perfunctory dialogue." - Michael Brooke (Screen Online)
The Story of Molly X
The Story of Molly X
1949, USA, 82m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Crane Wilbur Producer Aaron Rosenberg Photography Irving Glassberg Editor Edward Curtiss Music Milton Schwarzwald Cast June Havoc, John Russell, Dorothy Hart, Connie Gilchrist, Cathy Lewis, Sara Berner, Sandra Gould, Katherine Warren, Charles McGraw, Elliott Lewis.
"The title character, played with verve by June Havoc, is a hard-bitten gun moll who takes over management of a criminal gang when her husband is bumped off. One of her first official acts as leader is to track down and personally kill the man responsible for her husband's death. The rest of the story deals with Molly X's efforts to evade detection by the law, and her ultimate hoisting on her own petard. Though the supporting-cast performances are wildly variable, June Havoc carries the dramatic and emotional weight of the film with sure-handed professionalism." - Hal Erickson (Allmovie)
Straight Time
Straight Time
1978, USA, 114m, Col, Drama-Crime
Screenplay Alvin Sargent, Edward Bunker, Jeffrey Boam (based on the novel No Beast So Fierce by Edward Bunker) Producers Stanley Beck, Tim Zinnemann Photography Owen Roizman Editors Randy Roberts, Sam O'Steen Music David Shire Cast Dustin Hoffman, Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton, M. Emmet Walsh, Rita Taggart, Kathy Bates, Sandy Baron, Jake Busey, Tina Menard.
"Despite some signs of muddle and uncertainty (Ulu Grosbard replaced Dustin Hoffman as director during the shooting), this is a surprisingly strong picture about a convict (Hoffman) on parole in LA learning what the supposedly “normal” world is all about. Based on Edward Bunker's novel No Beast So Fierce and adapted by several hands, this gains one's respect largely through its secondary cast—Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton, M. Emmet Walsh, and Rita Taggart—although Hoffman has his moments as well." - Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Uncle Harry (alternative title)
1945, USA, 80m, BW, Mystery-Drama-Crime
Screenplay Stephen Longstreet (adapted by Keith Winter from the play by Thomas Job) Producer Joan Harrison Photography Paul Ivano Editor Arthur Hilton Music Hans J. Salter Cast George Sanders, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ella Raines, Sara Allgood, Moyna MacGill, Samuel S. Hinds, Harry Von Zell, Judy Clark, Coulter Irwin, Craig Reynolds.
"Though less deliriously noir than Siodmak's best work (Phantom Lady, The Killers, Cry of the City) this rather Hitchcockian smalltown thriller, produced by the Englishman's former associate Joan Harrison, is a typically impressive psychological study in various forms of obsession. Sanders is both superb and unusually touching as the shy, naive designer who falls for Raines, newly arrived from the city... A relatively conventional story is lent depth and originality by Siodmak's sense of detail and mood... Sadly. Siodmak was saddled with an ending that undercuts the dark emotions preceeding it, but the overall effect is still gripping, intelligent, and oddly critical of staid petit bourgeois aspirations." - Geoff Andrew (Time Out)
Strange Bargain
Strange Bargain
1949, USA, 68m, BW, Crime-Drama-Mystery
Screenplay Lillie Hayward (based on a story by J.H. Wallis) Producer Sid Rogell Photography Harry Wild Editor Frederic Knudston Music Frederick Hollander Cast Martha Scott, Jeffrey Lynn, Harry Morgan, Katherine Emery, Richard Gaines, Henry O'Neill, Walter Sande, Michael Chapin, Arlene Gray, Raymond Roe.
"In the opening moments of RKO’s 1949 second feature Strange Bargain, everyman husband and father Sam Wilson ducks a well-aimed daily newspaper as he reaches to grab the milk from his suburban front porch. It’s a slick bit of foreshadowing: take but a step outside your front door, and you never know what might happen to you. (Yes, I know Bilbo Baggins said just about the same thing.) Hobbits aside, the indifference of fate is a common film noir theme, even though this is a picture that doesn’t merit much consideration in that regard. The setup is there but the execution isn’t, and neither is the payoff. Instead one gets the impression of a teleplay or a TV movie of the week, almost as if the producers of the Donna Reed program decided to see how it would go over if they did a murder mystery special." - Mark Fertig (Where Danger Lives)
Strange Days
Strange Days
1995, USA, 145m, Col, Thriller-Science Fiction-Crime
Screenplay James Cameron, Jay Cocks (based on a story by James Cameron) Producers James Cameron, Steven-Charles Jaffe Photography Matthew F. Leonetti Editor Howard E. Smith Music Graeme Revell Cast Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D'Onofrio, Glenn Plummer, Josef Sommer, Richard Edson, Todd Graff.
"Giving new meaning to the word punchy, this violent, hyperventilating 1995 thriller by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) is set in LA on the eve of the new millennium and has something to do with snuff tapes (with nods to Peeping Tom), racial violence, and police corruption… Ralph Fiennes stars as a black marketeer who traffics in virtual-reality tapes, and one wonders if surviving fragments of four or five different script drafts are responsible for his change in personality every half hour or so. I wasn't bored at all by this, and Angela Bassett's action-hero charisma often blew me away, but fans of Bigelow at her best (e.g., Near Dark) may be put off by the movie's calculation, which doesn't always fit with its intellectual pretensions." - Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
Strange Fascination
Strange Fascination
1952, USA, 80m, BW, Drama-Crime-Music
Screenplay Hugo Haas Producer Hugo Haas Photography Paul Ivano Editor Merrill G. White Music Václav Divina Cast Cleo Moore, Hugo Haas, Mona Barrie, Rick Vallin, Karen Sharpe, Marc Krah, Genevieve Aumont, Pat Holmes, Maura Murphy, Brian O'Hara.
"The film that most neatly crystallizes the themes and motifs of the Hugo Haas-Cleo Moore series of obsessive noirs is Strange Fascination. The films opens on a dialogue-less sequence: a homeless man in an alley behind Carnegie Hall listening to the concert inside. The camera then follows him back to a Salvation Army mission where he begins to play one-handed piano in an empty hall. As the camera moves into a close-up of the man a flashback ensues. The one-handed homeless man was a world-famous pianist named Paul Marvan (Haas) who met his own deadly female in the form of the dancer Margo (Moore) at a club late one night." - James Ursini (Film Noir: The Encyclopedia)
Strange Illusion
Strange Illusion Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1945, USA, 80m, BW, Drama-Crime-Thriller
Screenplay Adele Comandini (from an original story by Fritz Rotter) Producer Leon Fromkess Photography Philip Tannura Editor Carl Pierson Music Leo Erdody Cast Jimmy Lydon, Sally Eilers, Warren William, Regis Toomey, Charles Arnt, George Reed, Jayne Hazard, Jimmy Clark, Mary McLeod, Pierre Watkin.
"One of Edgar G. Ulmer's most celebrated PRC (Producer's Releasing Corporation) quickies, Strange Illusion is a weird and original noir thriller with interesting qualities that overcome its low budget and somewhat awkward script... One's first reaction is, what kind of crazy movie is this? Made in 1945, it has a feel that wavers between stiff 1930s melodrama, and something out of a German expressionist silent. The acting is fairly unsophisticated, the production rather cramped for funds (but an epic alongside Detour, made the same year)... What makes Strange Illusion interesting is the audacity of its storytelling... A strange cross between Hamlet, Andy Hardy, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Strange Illusion is an arcane treat for the more adventurous film explorer." - Glenn Erickson (DVD Savant)
Strange Impersonation
Strange Impersonation Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1946, USA, 68m, BW, Mystery-Drama
Screenplay Mindret Lord, Anne Wigton, Lewis Herman Producer W. Lee Wilder Photography Robert Pittack Editor John F. Link Music Alexander Laszlo Cast Brenda Marshall, William Gargan, Hillary Brooke, George Chandler, Ruth Ford, H.B. Warner, Lyle Talbot, Mary Treen, Cay Forrester, Dick Scott.
"At first glance, Anthony Mann's early B-picture Strange Impersonation seems like a routine programmer. But a closer look shows some of Mann's pet themes already being explored, such as the connection between inner torment and external environment. In the film, Nora Goodrich (Brenda Marshall) is a scientist working alongside her true love Dr. Stephen Lindstrom (William Gargan), although she's more interested in working than in marrying him. While testing a new anesthetic, her backstabbing assistant (Hillary Brooke) sabotages her, sending her to the hospital and breaking up the lovers… Mann still had yet to develop the stark, high-contrast look that drove his later noirs, but Strange Impersonation is too interesting to write off." - Jeffrey M. Anderson (Combustible Celluloid)
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1946, USA, 117m, BW, Crime-Melodrama
Screenplay Robert Rossen, Robert Riskin (from the story Love Lies Bleeding by Jack Patrick) Producer Hal B. Wallis Photography Victor Milner Editor Archie Marshek Music Miklos Rozsa Cast Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Kirk Douglas, Lizabeth Scott, Judith Anderson, Roman Bohnen, Frank Orth, Darryl Hickman, Janis Wilson, Ann Doran.
"Superb performance by Stanwyck (as coldly calculating as she was in Double Indemnity) as the apex of a traumatic triangle comprising the two men who (maybe) saw her club her wealthy aunt to death when they were children. Now a tycoon in her own right, bonded to one of the witnesses (Douglas) in a guilt-ridden marriage, she finds the other (Heflin) resurfacing in her life as both promise of escape and threat to security - and the stagnant waters begin to stir again with murderous crosscurrents of fear and desire. A gripping film noir, all the more effective for being staged by Milestone as a steamy romantic melodrama." - Tom Milne (Time Out)
Strange Triangle
Strange Triangle
1946, USA, 65m, BW, Crime-Adventure-Drama
Screenplay Mortimer Braus (adapted by Charles G. Booth from a story by Jack Andrews) Producer Aubrey Schenck Photography Harry Jackson Editor Norman Colbert Music David Buttolph Cast Signe Hasso, Preston Foster, Anabel Shaw, Shepperd Strudwick, Roy Roberts, Emory Parnell, Nancy Evans, Gladys Blake, Frank Pershing, Robert Malcolm.
"War veteran Sam Crane (Foster) gets a job from old friend Harry Mathews (Roberts) supervising a group of banks, one of which is managed by Harry's brother, Earl (Strudwick). En route to his new post, Sam has a quick fling with a woman named Francine (Hasso), who picks him up in a cocktail bar. On arrival at Earl's home he discovers Francine is Earl's wife; further, it emerges she has a long criminal record and has been pressuring Earl into embezzling from his own bank… Hasso's a knockout as the femme fatale, but the movie suffers flat direction and Sam's behaviour strains credulity." - John Grant (A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir)
The Strange Woman
The Strange Woman
1946, USA, 100m, BW, Drama-Psychological Thriller
Screenplay Edgar G. Ulmer, Herb Meadow, Hunt Stromberg (based on the novel by Ben Ames Williams) Producers Eugen Schüfftan, Jack Chertok Photography Lucien Andriot Editors John M. Foley, Richard G. Wray Music Carmen Dragon Cast Hedy Lamarr, George Sanders, Louis Hayward, Gene Lockhart, Hillary Brooke, Rhys Williams, June Storey, Moroni Olsen, Olive Blakeney, Kathleen Lockhart.
"This film, shot two years after Bluebeard, was a rarity for Ulmer. His childhood friend Hedy Lamarr insisted that Ulmer direct her in her first outing away from MGM. This brought him decent actors, a strong script based on a bestseller, a fine cameraman (Lucien Andriot), and a reasonable budget and shooting schedule. The result is one of his most engaging works, a wonderfully rich, well-acted melodrama that recalls Leave Her to Heaven as one of the best examples of the popular 1940s genre devoted to female psychopathology." - Gary Morris (Bright Lights Film Journal)
The Stranger
The Stranger 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1946, USA, 95m, BW, Thriller-Mystery-War
Screenplay Anthony Veiller (with contributions from John Huston and Orson Welles [both uncredited] from a story by Victor Trivas) Producer Sam Spiegel Photography Russell Metty Editor Ernest Nims Music Bronislau Kaper Cast Orson Welles, Loretta Young, Edward G. Robinson, Philip Merivale, Richard Long, Konstantin Shayne, Billy House, Byron Keith, Martha Wentworth, Isabel O'Madigan.
"Although it doesn't come close to Welles' best work, The Stranger is still a taut thriller and much of it looks unmistakably like an Orson Welles film. The concise, suspenseful progression of the plot and the character development are streamlined in the typical studio style, but they're presented in Welles' trademark visual style, marked by moody lighting and unusual camera angles. This is particularly true in the scene where Wilson (Robinson) shows Mary (Young) a film of concentration camp atrocities masterminded by her husband. Cinematographer Russell Metty - who shot some scenes uncredited on The Magnificent Ambersons and worked with Welles again on Touch of Evil (1958) - effectively utilized deep-focus shots, a favorite cinematic effect in Welles' movies." - Rob Nixon (Turner Classic Movies)
Stranger on the Third Floor
The Stranger on the Third Floor 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1940, USA, 64m, BW, Drama-Crime-Mystery
Screenplay Frank Partos, Nathanael West [uncredited] Producer Lee S. Marcus Photography Nicholas Musuraca Editor Harry Marker Music Roy Webb Cast Peter Lorre, John McGuire, Margaret Tallichet, Charles Waldron, Elisha Cook Jr., Charles Halton, Ethel Griffies, Cliff Clark, Oscar O'Shea, Alec Craig.
"Stranger on the Third Floor, an obscure B movie from RKO Studios, has its place in movie history as the first film noir. More than just a possible influence on the flood of dark, urban crime dramas about to follow en masse (as a B film, its "influence" on anyone at the time is debatable), it marked, as author Robert Porfirio has written, "a distinct break in style and substance with the preceding mystery, crime, detection and horror films of the 1930s." In other words, it looked radically new. Its extraordinary look and tone are the product of stylized sets, bizarre angles and lighting, and a powerful blurring of dream and reality - qualities strongly influenced by German expressionist films of the 1920s." - Jeremy Arnold (Turner Classic Movies)
Strangers in the Night
Strangers in the Night
1944, USA, 56m, BW, Melodrama-Crime
Screenplay Bryant Ford, Paul Gangelin (from a story by Philip MacDonald) Producer Rudolph E. Abel Photography Reggie Lanning Editor Arthur Roberts Music Joseph Dubin Cast William Terry, Virginia Grey, Helene Thimig, Edith Barrett, Anne O'Neal, Audley Anderson, Jimmie Lucas, Roy Butler, Charles Sullivan, Frances Morris.
"Strangers in the Night's story is credited to Philip MacDonald, who was also one of the credited writers on Rebecca, so the comparisons are probably partially intentional. Big houses, maids with mysterious secrets, longing for an absent love--these are all fairly common elements in gothic romances… This 1944 romantic thriller from Anthony Mann may be short on romance and thrills alike, but it's still an interesting stepping stone on the way to a soon-to-be illustrious career. It's tight construction and the efficient presentation prefigure Mann's no-nonsense tough guy movies like T-Men and Raw Deal, even if they couldn't be farther apart in tone and subject. Otherwise, Strangers in the Night passes pretty quickly, without leaving much of an impression on the moviegoers it meets." - Jamie S. Rich (DVD Talk)
Strangers on a Train
Strangers on a Train 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1951, USA, 101m, BW, Thriller-Drama-Crime
Screenplay Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde (adapted by Whitfield Cook from the novel by Patricia Highsmith) Producer Alfred Hitchcock Photography Robert Burks Editor William Ziegler Music Dimitri Tiomkin Cast Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock, Laura Elliott, Marion Lorne, Howard St. John, Jonathan Hale, John Brown.
"The abiding terror in Alfred Hitchcock's life was that he would be accused of a crime he did not commit. This fear is at the heart of many of his best films, including Strangers on a Train, in which a man becomes the obvious suspect in the strangulation of his wife... The movie is usually ranked among Hitchcock's best (I would put it below only Vertigo, Notorious, Psycho and perhaps Shadow of a Doubt), and its appeal is probably the linking of an ingenious plot with insinuating creepiness. That combination came in the first place from Highsmith, whose novels have been unfairly shelved with crime fiction when she actually writes mainstream fiction about criminals." - Roger Ebert (Roger Ebert.com)
Stray Dog
Stray Dog Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Nora inu (original title)
1949, Japan, 122m, BW, Thriller-Crime-Drama
Screenplay Akira Kurosawa, Ryûzô Kikushima Producer Sôjirô Motoki Photography Asakazu Nakai Editors Toshio Gotô, Yoshi Sugihara Music Fumio Hayasaka Cast Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Isao Kimura, Keiko Awaji, Eiko Miyoshi, Noriko Sengoku, Noriko Honma, Reikichi Kawamura, Eijiro Tono, Reisaburo Yamamoto.
"A bad day gets worse for young detective Murakami when a pickpocket steals his gun on a hot, crowded bus. Desperate to right the wrong, he goes undercover, scavenging Tokyo’s sweltering streets for the stray dog whose desperation has led him to a life of crime. With each step, cop and criminal’s lives become more intertwined and the investigation becomes an examination of Murakami’s own dark side. Starring Toshiro Mifune, as the rookie cop, and Takashi Shimura, as the seasoned detective who keeps him on the right side of the law, Stray Dog (Nora Inu) goes beyond a crime thriller, probing the squalid world of postwar Japan and the nature of the criminal mind." - The Criterion Collection
Street of Chance
Street of Chance
1942, USA, 74m, BW, Mystery-Drama
Screenplay Garrett Fort (from the novel The Black Curtain by Cornell Woolrich) Producer Sol C. Siegel Photography Theodor Sparkuhl Editor Arthur Schmidt Music David Buttolph Cast Burgess Meredith, Claire Trevor, Sheldon Leonard, Jerome Cowan, Frieda Inescort, Adeline de Walt Reynolds, Louise Platt, Arthur Loft, Clancy Cooper, Edwin Maxwell.
"Jack Hively efficiently directs an early film noir that establishes a number of conventions that helped define noir. It's the first adaptation based on a Cornell Woolrich book -- The Black Curtain. The film is penned by Garrett Elsden Fort while the cinematographer Theodor Sparkuhl, specializing in German Expressionism, provides the intense shadowy black-and-white photography that captures Woolrich's foreboding dark crime situation. The film's faults are linked to the plodding story and its many coincidences, which give it a muddled and superficial look." - Dennis Schwartz (World Movie Reviews)
The Street with No Name
The Street with No Name 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir)
1948, USA, 91m, BW, Drama-Crime-Police Detective Film
Screenplay Harry Kleiner Producer Samuel G. Engel Photography Joseph MacDonald Editor William H. Reynolds Music Lionel Newman Cast Mark Stevens, Richard Widmark, Lloyd Nolan, Barbara Lawrence, Ed Begley, Donald Buka, Joseph Pevney, John McIntire, Walter Greaza, Howard Smith.
"Fresh from giggling his sadistic way through Kiss of Death, Widmark steals a march on this follow-up to the documentary approach of House on 92nd Street with his brilliantly quirky characterisation of a gangster in the throes of hypochondria (terrified of germs and draughts, he draws his nasal inhaler more often than his gun) and misogyny (in between bouts of wife-beating, he flirts coyly with Stevens, the young FBI agent who has infiltrated his gang). Inspired by the FBI's concern over the re-emergence of organised crime, and saddled with a narrator boasting what a great job the Bureau is doing, the film slips quietly into the noir genre with its shadowy camerawork, its ambiguous relationships, and its subversive delight in the personable Widmark's city of corruption. It was later reworked by Fuller as House of Bamboo." - Tom Milne (Time Out)
The Strip
The Strip
1951, USA, 85m, BW, Crime-Drama-Musical
Screenplay Allen Rivkin Producer Joe Pasternak Photography Robert Surtees Editor Albert Akst Music George Stoll Cast Mickey Rooney, Sally Forrest, William Demarest, James Craig, Kay Brown, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Rettig, Tom Powers, Jonathan Cott, Tommy Farrell.
"An existential film noir musical? The Strip is one of those pictures that is more interesting for what is says about the values of its era than it is as a piece of entertainment, despite MGM production values and a big-time star. Billed as “MGM’s musical melodrama of the dancer and the drummer,” the film opens with ample noir flair: a narrator speaks over a long shot of an urban landscape. In this case it turns out to be the Sunset Strip, as a police prowl car rolls through the breaking dawn, siren blaring… Despite the fact that the film is a sort of hybrid musical / crime picture, it most definitely scores as a film noir." - Mark Fertig (Where Danger lives)
Such a Pretty Little Beach
Such a Pretty Little Beach Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Une Si jolie petite plage (original title); Riptide (alternative English title)
1949, France-Netherlands, 91m, BW, Drama-Crime
Screenplay Jacques Sigurd Producer Émile Darbon Photography Henri Alekan Editor Léonide Azar Music Maurice Thiriet Cast Madeleine Robinson, Gérard Philipe, Jean Servais, André Valmy, Jane Marken, Paul Villé, Christian Ferry, Yves Martel, Gabrielle Fontan, Gabriel Gobin.
"Truth and beauty are not poetry, but the simple and unaffected concern of one troubled soul for another. A woman caressing the brow of a condemned man in a desolate shack on the beach of perdition. The eve of the last day, two men work on a car, a murderer helping a mechanic, both strangers yet angelic comrades. Solidarity meeting fate head-on. A last desperate attempt by the killer to redeem the child he was before and still is – lost in the sordid machinations and cruel exploitation of bourgeois hypocrisy. The apotheosis of poetic realism and film noir, not on the dark streets of Los Angeles, but in a decrepit consumptive ville on the French coast. This is the true trajectory of noir released from the shackles of the studio enterprise: treacherous mud and dull clouds leading to a desolate beach of lost youth." - Tony D'Ambra (FilmsNoir.net)
Sudden Danger
Sudden Danger
1955, USA, 65m, BW, Crime-Mystery-Detective Film
Screenplay Daniel B. Ullman, Elwood Ullman Producer Ben Schwab Photography Ellsworth Fredericks Editor William Austin Music Martin Skiles Cast Bill Elliott, Tom Drake, Beverly Garland, Dayton Lummis, Lyle Talbot, Helene Stanton, Frank Jenks, Lucien Littlefield, Pierre Watkin, Minerva Urecal.
"Having forsaken westerns for detective melodramas in Dial Red O, William "Wild Bill" Ellliot continues in this vein in Sudden Danger. Elliot is cast as detective lieutenant Doyle, who at present is investigating the alleged suicide of a clothing manufacturer. Doyle suspects that the victim was murdered, and that the perpetrator was the dead man's blind son, Curtis (Tom Drake). Hoping to clear himself, Curtis begins searching for clues on his own, and by fadeout time he and Doyle have cornered the actual killer. Though obviously made in a hurry, Sudden Danger is elevated by better-than-usual scripting and a well-chosen supporting cast." - Hal Erickson (Allmovie)
Sudden Fear
Sudden Fear 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1952, USA, 110m, BW, Psychological Thriller
Screenplay Lenore Coffee, Robert Smith (from the novel by Edna Sherry) Producer Joseph Kaufman Photography Charles Lang Editor Leon Barsha Music Elmer Bernstein Cast Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame, Bruce Bennett, Virginia Huston, Mike Connors, Arthur Space, Bess Flowers, Taylor Holmes.
"Definitely a walk on the wild side, this has Crawford as a well-heeled playwright sacking hatchet-faced Palance from her latest production as lacking the right romantic personality, then falling for him in a whirlwind courtship when they 'happen' to meet on a train. Cue for a deadly cat-and-mouse game as Palance, aided by sulky Grahame, sets out to kill Crawford for her money and she uses her playwright's wiles to devise a counterplot. With suspense screwed way beyond the sticking point, superb camerawork from Charles Lang, and Crawford in nerve-janglingly extravagant form, it's hugely enjoyable." - Tom Milne (Time Out)
1954, USA, 77m, BW, Thriller-Crime-Drama
Screenplay Richard Sale Producer Robert Bassler Photography Charles G. Clarke Editor John F. Schreyer Music David Raksin Cast Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason, Nancy Gates, Kim Charney, Willis Bouchey, Paul Frees, Christopher Dark, Paul Wexler, James O'Hara.
"Frank Sinatra stars as a jittery presidential assassin in this unpretentious B-movie which features fine work by Sterling Hayden and James Gleason... While its confinement to one set and workmanlike direction give the project the feel of a photographed play, the principal characters are fleshed-out well enough to be compelling for the brief running time of the film. Sinatra is excellent as the paranoid, embittered WWII vet who leads the team of hired assassins, Gleason has one of his best parts as a wily retiree who understands how to exploit the chinks in the killer's psyche, and Hayden is solid in a lesser role." - Michael Costello (Allmovie)
The Sun Sets at Dawn
The Sun Sets at Dawn
1950, USA, 71m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Paul Sloane Producers Helen H. Rathvon, Paul Sloane Photography Lionel Lindon Editor Sherman Todd Music Leith Stevens Cast Sally Parr, Patrick Waltz, Walter Reed, Lee Frederick, Houseley Stevenson, Howard St. John, Louise Lorimer, Raymond Bramley, Charles Meredith, Jack Reynolds.
"An earnest young man (Patrick Waltz) is on death row, convicted for the murder of a corrupt politician… a murder he maintains he didn’t commit, although the evidence against him is damning. His devoted girlfriend (Sally Parr) waits in torment, hoping for a last-minute reprieve… I wanted to love this film. I wanted it to be a hidden gem. Its director, Paul Sloane, is a mystery. He helmed a couple of dozen films in the 20’s and 30’s (none of them seem particularly noteworthy) and then disappeared, only to pop up again with this one, 11 years later… As a moody oddity, the film has intriguing aspects. As a satisfying narrative, however, it fails to deliver." - Martin Teller (Martin Teller's Movie Reviews)
Sunset Blvd.
Sunset Blvd. 100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
Sunset Boulevard (alternative spelling)
1950, USA, 110m, BW, Showbiz Drama-Satire
Screenplay Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman Jr. Producer Charles Brackett Photography John F. Seitz Editor Arthur Schmidt Music Franz Waxman Cast Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Jack Webb, Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, Lloyd Gough.
"Gloria Swanson deserves to be called iconic in Billy Wilder's priceless 1950 classic. She is Norma Desmond, the forgotten silent movie queen living in shabby, mouldering opulence. It is a delicious comedy with a psycho edge, as hard-up screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) has car trouble and pulls off Sunset Boulevard into a strange driveway, at the top of which lies a veritable Bates motel of sociopathy and rage: Norma's creepy mansion. He is sucked into the world of a kept man, with horrifying results. This is an unmissable commentary on Hollywood's rejection of its silent past: a kind of Sobbin' in the Rain." - Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
The Suspect
The Suspect Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1944, USA, 85m, BW, Crime-Thriller
Screenplay Bertram Millhauser, Arthur T. Horman (based on the novel This Way Out by James Ronald) Producer Islin Auster Photography Paul Ivano Editor Arthur Hilton Music Frank Skinner Cast Charles Laughton, Ella Raines, Henry Daniell, Dean Harens, Stanley Ridges, Rosalind Ivan, Molly Lamont, Raymond Severn, Eve Amber, Maude Eburne.
"Oppression, guilt, blackmail and murder in turn-of-the-century London's quiet Laburnum Terrace - the plot specifics of The Suspect inevitably evoke Hitchcock's world, even if the studio choice of noir specialist Siodmak as director suggests a more darkly labyrinthine atmosphere. As it turns out, the generic common denominator of psychological suspense proves stronger than the auteurist imprint, and if any individual has a right to 'sign' the film, it is Laughton in one of his most engaged and engaging roles, as a sympathetic wife-killer and victim of blackmail, whose fatal flaw is eventually revealed to be his sense of simple decency." - Paul Taylor (Time Out)
1946, USA, 101m, BW, Mystery-Drama-Romance
Screenplay Philip Yordan Producers Frank King, Maurice King Photography Karl Struss Editors Otho Lovering, Richard Heermance Music Daniele Amfitheatrof Cast Belita, Barry Sullivan, Bonita Granville, Albert Dekker, Eugene Pallette, George E. Stone, Edit Angold, Leon Belasco, Miguelito Valdes, Bobby Ramos.
"Produced by the enterprising King Brothers, Suspense takes place in an ice-skating emporium owned by Frank Leonard (Albert Dekker). No-good heel Joe Morgan (Barry Sullivan) not only strongarms Leonard into sharing the establishment's profits, but also tries to move in on Leonard's wife Roberta (Belita). The plot thickens when Leonard is apparently killed by Morgan, only to return from the dead!... Belita's ice-skating solos (staged by Nick Castle) and Philip Yordan's overly complicated script tend to weigh down the proceedings; still, Suspense deserves to be seen, if for no other reason than its dazzling opening sequence." - Hal Erickson (Allmovie)
Suspicion Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1941, USA, 99m, BW, Thriller-Drama-Mystery
Screenplay Alma Reville, Joan Harrison, Samson Raphaelson (based on the novel Before the Fact by Francis Iles) Producer Alfred Hitchcock Photography Harry Stradling Editor William Hamilton Music Franz Waxman Cast Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce, Cedric Hardwicke, Dame May Whitty, Leo G. Carroll, Isabel Jeans, Heather Angel, Auriol Lee, Reginald Sheffield.
"One of Hitchcock’s most caustic portraits of a disintegrating marriage, Suspicion is also perhaps his purest exercise in suspense. Joan Fontaine plays the smitten wife who gradually comes to believe the worst of her charlatan husband, otherwise known as Cary Grant. Even a glass of milk becomes an object of dread in this poisonous atmosphere, an eerie and oddly beautiful revelation of terror that the surrealists might have envied. After turning down the screwball lead of Mr. and Mrs. Smith for fear of being typecast, Grant here tenders a performance in which the very qualities that made him the consummate romantic lead are cause for alarm. Hitchcock disavowed the ending’s sudden reversal, but subsequent critics have latched on to the film’s inconsistencies as being suggestive of the deeper ways in which the auteur’s work was at odds with itself." - Harvard Film Archive
Suture Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1993, USA, 93m, Col, Drama-Psychological Thriller
Screenplay David Siegel, Scott McGehee Producers David Siegel, Michele Petin, Scott McGehee Photography Greg Gardiner Editor Lauren Zuckerman Music Cary Berger Cast Dennis Haysbert, Mel Harris, Sab Shimino, Dina Merrill, David Graf, Michael Harris, Fran Ryan, John Ingle, Sandy Gibbons, Sam Smiley.
"Vincent (Michael Harris), a wealthy sophisticate, and Clay (Haysbert), a construction worker, have met only once, at their father's funeral. So when Vincent asks his half-brother to visit him in Phoenix, Arizona, then disappears on a business trip, Clay is perplexed. But that's only the start of his worries… This first feature is a witty, imaginative noir thriller exploring questions of identity, memory, and the duality of mind and body. In this last respect, the seemingly perverse decision to have Vincent and Clay played, respectively, by a white and a black actor makes perfect sense, complementing the balanced ironies and structural antitheses of the narrative. Most impressive." - Geoff Andrew (Time Out)
Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success
100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
1957, USA, 96m, BW, Drama-Media Satire
Screenplay Clifford Odets, Alexander Mackendrick (adapted by Ernest Lehman from his short story Tell Me About it Tomorrow) Producer James Hill Photography James Wong Howe Editor Alan Crosland Jr. Music Elmer Bernstein Cast Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner, Sam Levene, Barbara Nichols, Emile Meyer, Jeff Donnell, Joseph Leon, Edith Atwater.
"It wasn’t intended. No one could have predicted it. But Sweet Smell of Success turned out to be a terminus where several movie genres and subgenres converged and curdled, producing a uniquely delicious perfume of everlasting cynicism. Inhale deeply... Sweet Smell of Success is a true classic. The passing of half a century has deepened its manifold pleasures. We do not mind the absence of a few genre conventions, like a hero or hope or justice, when we can get, in spades, scintillating dialogue, ingenious photography, keyed-up performances, and coolly thumping music, all paced at a carousing canter." - Gary Giddins (The Criterion Collection)
The System
The System
1953, USA, 90m, BW, Crime-Drama
Screenplay Jo Eisinger (based on the story Investigation by Edith Grafton and Samuel Grafton) Producer Samuel Bischoff Photography Edwin B. DuPar Editor Clarence Kolster Music David Buttolph Cast Frank Lovejoy, Joan Weldon, Robert Arthur, Paul Picerni, Don Beddoe, Jerome Cowan, Dan Seymour, Sarah Selby, Fay Roope, Frank Richards.
"Lovejoy plays a hotshot bookie who becomes the center of an investigation by a newspaper reporter trying to expose the evils of organized crime. The investigation results in a committee designed by politicos to investigate the syndicate. Though at first refusing to budge from silence, Lovejoy is persuaded by the murder of a young robber and the subsequent suicide of his son, to supply the committee with all the information it desires… The plot stretches believability quite a bit to drag out some sentiment. Otherwise everything is handled in a completely routine fashion." - TV Guide
100 Essential Noirs (or the 100 films most often referred to as noir) The 100 Most Cited Noir Films
Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT) Recommended Viewing (by TSPDT)
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